Groundbreaking, environmentally friendly facilities opening in Virginia

For some companies, being environmentally friendly means adding a few recycling bins throughout the building, and turning off lights in empty rooms. HCA is taking much larger steps at two Virginia facilities, with changes that will keep the company at the forefront of sustainability.

The first is West Creek Medical Center, a newly constructed, freestanding emergency department in Richmond. The facility, which is now open to patients, is the company’s first to use geothermal energy for part of its heating and cooling needs.

Geothermal Energy Provides Year-Round Savings

The concept of geothermal energy is fairly simple, according to Greg Stein, Vice President of Design and Construction. At six feet under the earth’s surface, the temperature remains close to 56 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Pipes are inserted into the ground, and water circulating through those pipes extracts the latent ground temperature and uses it to help heat or cool the building. Because that energy is not enough to sufficiently heat or cool the entire facility, electricity is used in conjunction with geothermal energy at West Creek. The facility’s heat-pump system is able to take advantage of the tempered water as an energy source and operate much more efficiently than a traditional system.

“While the initial cost of geothermal installation might be more expensive than a traditional system, over the life of the building you’re being more responsible and saving energy,” Stein said.

The second facility that’s furthering HCA’s sustainability efforts is a medical office building (MOB) in Reston that will be HCA’s first LEED-certified building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a widely accepted standard by which green buildings are measured.

“HCA has been active in many ways, for a number of years, to operate buildings that are sustainable,” Stein explained. “It wasn’t a big deal for us to make the little bit of a stretch to become LEED-certified.”

LEED certification works like a grading system, said Chris Powers, Design Manager. Buildings are given points for complying with items in several ecological categories, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design process and regional priority.

LEED Certification Within Reach

Currently buildings need at least 40 points to become LEED v3 certified. Based on the design, the Reston MOB will be eligible for at least 48 points, most of which come from the sustainable site category.

The Reston MOB is scheduled to open in mid-2013, but official LEED certification will not be awarded until about a year after the building is open and sustainability efforts have been confirmed.

For HCA, being a leader in sustainability is one way to stay ahead of the curve, Stein said. Geothermal energy is being used with increasing frequency in residential and commercial developments, and once the calculated savings at West Creek are confirmed, HCA may consider using geothermal energy in other facilities. Furthermore, more and more buildings in the United States are becoming LEED-certified, so the Reston facility is a good place to put theory into practice.

“It’s a glimpse of things to come,” Stein said.