As research continues to bring forth new ideas and techniques to promote healing, one idea specifically aims to create sustainable medical facilities that improve the health of patients as well as the environment.
The LEED for Healthcare Green Building Rating System is an arrangement of guidelines and performance standards for certifying health care facilities. The goal is to promote clean, healthy, affordable, durable and environmentally friendly practices in the construction and design of the building.
When it comes to materials, flooring may seem like a minor factor in relation to the facility as a whole. However, with its large surface area and high amounts of foot traffic, choosing the right type of flooring and flooring materials is quite important. Of the seven topics that LEED for Healthcare focuses on, following are four that can be directly attributed to flooring within a health care facility.
Materials and Resources
When it comes to materials and resources, LEED wants facilities to consider materials that will have less impact on the environment by using rapidly renewable content, such as green flooring. This type of flooring is sustainably harvested from environmentally friendly, recyclable and natural sources. Options to consider include the following.
When choosing hardwood flooring, it is important to understand the source of the wood used and how it is processed into flooring. In conventional solid hardwood, each board is milled from a single piece of timber. However, that same piece of timber can produce multiple boards of engineered hardwood.
Linoleum is one of the more cost-effective and economical flooring options on the market. It is fire retardant, water- and stain-resistant, and will hold up to years of wear and tear. Linoleum also can be recycled and used to make new flooring, while lasting up to 40 years if properly maintained.
Many manufacturers are now producing carpet tiles made from recycled material and adhesives that are non-toxic. New Carpet and Rug Institute and Environmental Protection Agency standards have strictly reduced the amount of VOCs that carpeting can emit. Therefore, choosing recycled carpeting can lead to better indoor air quality and enhanced durability.
Concrete is one of the most energy-efficient and longest-lasting types of flooring on the market. It can be comprised of recycled materials and will usually be locally sourced, which can contribute to regional priority credits.
Facilities can acquire credits by obtaining flooring that has been locally extracted, harvested or recovered, as well as manufactured within 500 miles of the site. Finding locally sourced flooring can be difficult and time consuming. However, even if only a fraction of a product or material is locally extracted, harvested, recovered and manufactured, then that percentage (by weight) can still contribute to its regional value. The goal is to cut down on lengthy transportation of materials, which would lessen hazardous pollutants and greenhouse gases.
A database of Regional Priority credits and their geographic applicability is available on the USGBC website.
Innovation and Design
Innovation and design targets the use of new ideas and techniques for green design and construction. When it comes to flooring, there have been many innovative ideas for lowering VOCs and other high-emitting adhesives. Companies such as Interface and Shaw have broken ground on techniques to achieve this goal through TacTiles and LokDots.
TacTiles by Interface is a unique and innovative installation system. Instead of using wet adhesives or heavy buckets of glue, TacTiles securely connect carpet tiles to one another, forming a floor that “floats.” This process allows for fast, easy and clean installation, as well as non-slip, slide or buckling durability. This unique installation system has virtually no VOCs and also meets LEED requirements for reduction of material, low-VOC material and innovation and design.
LokDots by Shaw is a unique installation system that does not involve any glue or wet adhesives. The dots are loaded into a dispenser and are placed onto the back of the carpet tile (three dots in the center and three dots per corner). LokDots use up to 97 percent less adhesive material than other wet adhesives and can also contribute to LEED certification by meeting the requirements for reduction of material, low-VOC material, and innovation and design.
Indoor Environmental Quality
Health care facilities are unique work environments compared to other jobsites. Many hospitals, nursing homes and maternity units provide 24/7 service; therefore, patients and staff cannot be removed from the facility during construction or renovation work. Patients with weak immune systems can be susceptible to breathing problems or sickness caused by airborne particles during the demolition stage. During flooring renovation, construction teams should consider:
- keeping flooring waste in tightly covered containers before transport;
- covering transport receptacles or carts;
- vacuuming work area with HEPA-filtered vacuum; and
- wet mopping the affected area with disinfectant.
Air quality is important to every facility, but is even more important when it comes to a health care facility. In a place designed to promote healing, air quality issues should to be non-existent