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  The Beck Group Helps Dell Children’s Medical Center Become a Model for Sustainable Healthcare Design and Construction
By Norma Rosowski

When it opened in May 2013, the W.H. and Elaine McCarty South Tower was the first major expansion of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. The 72-bed addition, comprised of 75,683-square-feet of air conditioned space and a 6,506-square-foot mechanical penthouse, increased the hospital’s capacity by 40 percent. It also earned the facility its second LEED® Platinum certification as well as the world’s first-ever Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design for Healthcare (LEED-HC) Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The Beck Group has been central to helping the Seton Healthcare Network achieve its mission of making Dell Children’s one of the healthiest, most sustainable hospitals in the world through its work on the South Tower. Selected for its experience in constructing sustainable buildings and its commitment to helping its clients achieve LEED certification, Beck’s objective was to meet the highest levels of sustainability and create an environment for healing that promotes both human and environmental health as specified by the Dell Children’s project team. For the South Tower, achieving LEED-HC Platinum certification was accomplished largely because of the sustainable technologies and practices used to construct and power the South Tower. These include:

Improved Thermal Envelope — An air and watertight envelope is especially important to healthcare facilities to ensure healthy indoor air quality, infection control and energy performance. To create a tight envelope, Beck worked closely with the commissioning agent to study the design details prior to construction and then conducted extensive performance testing—including thermal imaging and water testing—during construction to identify and fix potential problems. The cost of envelope commissioning is expected to have a relatively short payback because it directly lowers ongoing energy and maintenance costs.

Energy Savings — Modeled energy cost savings for the South Tower are 47.7 percent better than the baseline building. This was achieved through the use of integrated strategies including an improved thermal envelope, air handling units with fan arrays and variable frequency drives, efficient lighting and controls, and high-efficiency glazing augmented by connection to the highly efficient Mueller Combined Heating and Cooling Plant, an onsite natural gas-fired co-generation power plant operated by local power company Austin Energy. For example, high-efficiency, low-mercury LED lamps are used throughout the bed tower. In patient rooms, both the lighting and mechanical system are automatically controlled to detect occupancy and turn off when not needed. A 50-kW solar photovoltaic system is expected to provide almost 10 percent of the annual electricity consumption and a 300-MM Btu/yr solar thermal system further offsets energy usage for water heating.

Water Efficiency — The use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances reduces the amount of water used annually in the South Tower by 30 percent, or 542,000 gallons, compared to a baseline building. Additionally, process water for equipment was reduced by 75 percent over the baseline.

Irrigation — Landscape and irrigation systems were designed to use only captured rainwater and municipally treated reclaimed water through the City of Austin’s Purple Pipe program. Native and adaptive plants were selected and high efficiency irrigation methods further reduced the water demand.

Healthy Building Materials & Furnishings — The South Tower uses low-emitting materials, non-toxic paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, flooring and composite wood products throughout. Only building materials and furniture free of harmful bioaccumulative toxin (PBT) chemicals, including reduced mercury, lead, cadmium and copper, were used. The Dell Children’s project team also pursued USGBC Pilot Credit 2 PBT Source Reduction, which eliminates dioxins and halogenated organic compounds in building products.

Prefabrication — The Beck Group’s extensive use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) enabled it to prefabricate patient room headwalls, restrooms and MEP racks for the Dell Children’s South Tower. Prefabrication resulted in significant improvements in the project schedule due to a reduction in field-related conflicts and change orders, as well as a higher level of product quality, greater safety and the elimination of waste. It also significantly reduced the budgeted construction and labor costs. For example, the cost savings for prefabricating the head walls in the South Tower was $34,000, or 52 percent less than the budget. Moreover, it took 1,062 fewer hours—a labor savings of 55 percent—to prefabricate the headwalls compared to constructing them onsite.

Waste Diversion — While not specifically related to technology, keeping building waste out of landfills is important to sustainability. The Dell Children’s project team set the bar high with a waste diversion plan that would divert 95 percent of construction waste. The Beck Group exceeded that goal by using a single-stream waste hauler to remove waste from the construction site to be sorted, weighed and diverted. As a result, more than 3,000 tons of waste—96 percent—was diverted from the landfill.

When the Seton project team first aspired to build “a state-of-the-art healthcare facility dedicated to providing premium care to children in an environment that promotes human and environmental health,” they knew that using sustainable construction practices and technology would be instrumental in achieving their goal. Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas achieved an Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) 5-star rating in 2008 and LEED for New Construction v2.2 Platinum certification, followed by the South Tower achieving a 5-star rating and becoming the first project to achieve LEED-HC Platinum certification, making it a world-class model for sustainable healthcare design and construction.

About the Author
Norma Rosowski is Director of Sustainability for The Beck Group. Email: NormaRosowski@beckgroup.com; visit www.beckgroup.com.

About The Beck Group
The Beck Group is an integrated architecture, construction, technology and professional services firm specializing in a full spectrum of commercial professional services, including development, design/build, master planning, real estate consulting, architecture, interior design, technology, construction and sustainability. Founded in 1912, the firm maintains a national team of over 500 employees, 40 percent of whom are LEED® APs. To learn more, visit www.beckgroup.com.

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