By WAQAS NAEEM
Going green and improving patient experience are the themes at the under-construction patient tower at Boone Hospital Center.
Inside the tower, two prototype rooms, called “mock-up rooms,” have been completely set up to help the doctors, nurses and other hospital employees get a feel of the tower’s patient care design.
Outside, as construction workers put up the steel framework of a canopy for the entrance to the tower, three large containers offer a glimpse of the recycling work being done. Project manager Scott Naeger said the workers were separating the cardboard and metal waste products generated during the construction using these containers and diverting them from landfill.
Keeping the construction site environment friendly is just one part of the total effort to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the patient tower. This means that in addition to waste management, the project must ensure performance in areas such as energy and water efficiency, use of renewable energy, effects on local ecosystems and selection of construction materials.
According to Naeger, a lot has already been achieved in this regard.
Energy conserving features
Naeger highlighted the “green” features that have been incorporated in both the construction and design of the patient tower.
Since high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are responsible for the characteristic smell of paint, paint thinners and adhesives, products with high VOC content are being completely avoided to improve the air quality of the patient tower, Naeger said. He also pointed out that all of the ducts placed inside the tower are completely kept covered to maintain the cleanliness of air inside them.
Work is being done on the water efficiency front as well. Outside, on the western side of the hospital, huge tanks will be placed for harvesting rain water. Inside, the rooms are being equipped with faucets that are motion activated and use a low flow to save water.
Still there are a lot of challenges, according to Naeger.
“It is very tough for any hospital to achieve this (certification) because of the energy intensive needs of hospitals,” he said.
However, he was hopeful that the target would be achieved. He supported his belief by referring to the solar water heating system that’s been set up on the roof of the patient tower. In addition, the hospital has an automated water system, which can detect water needs within the building and preheat water. Together, these systems would save energy and cost of heating water.
The light-colored roof of the tower, itself, limits the “heat island effect” by reflecting sunlight and prevents energy losses.
An “energy recovery unit” has also been deployed inside the tower. While this unit can absorb heat and humidity from the air during the cooling season, it can also heat and humidify air during the heating season. This would help bring the cooling and heating costs down, according to Naeger.
Improvements in patient care
Myrl Frevert, director of support services, said the rooms were designed after a careful planning process.
“We mapped out our current state, looked for opportunities to eliminate waste and seek(ed) out a layout that would increase caregivers productivity,” Frevert said.
The room design includes more space for visitors and a caregivers’ section, which will facilitate quick access to supplies. Each floor of the tower will follow a decentralized model – seven smaller nurses’ stations instead of one large typical station – to minimize the nurses’ response time to patient calls.
Frevert said the rooms will be equipped with technologies such as a wireless voice communication system for patients to contact the nurses directly and pressure-sensitive beds, which would alert the nurses’ station if a patient tries to get out of bed.
The touchscreen in the mock up medical/surgery room is another interesting feature. The touchscreen will be connected to a movable mechanical arm attached to the wall behind the patient’s bed. The touchscreen placed in the mock up room can currently be used to order food, get weather updates and see a welcome message from the hospital. In the future, it will allow access to medical records and information on medical procedures as well.
Frevert said the neighborhood residents were informed at the beginning of the project. He said the project plans were presented in a meeting of the East Campus Neighborhood Association early on and another meeting was held before construction began.
“Prior to our starting construction, we met again with the group (East Campus Neighborhood Association) and shared our final plans,” Frevert said. “We have kept them apprised of any major items having an effect on the neighborhood, for example the closing of Williams Street to one way traffic, through their website.”
Frevert said residents’ concerns had also been addressed during the construction process. He said they had received complaints from people about the construction workers smoking near the houses and they had acted upon these complaints to advise the workers against this practice.
Frevert also mentioned that the patient tower will have a conference center on its lobby level with a 250 to 300 capacity conference hall that will be open to community events.
The $89.2 million patient tower is scheduled for completion in spring 2011 and a grand opening is planned for June 2011.