Highland Care Pavilion: Gold is just what the doctor ordered

Highland Hospital

As SmithGroupJJR celebrates reaching our 100th LEED certified project, sustainability leaders recall working on some of the LEED certified projects that have helped us become one of the leading sustainable design firms in the U.S. In this blog post, Kim Swanson addresses the first phase of an extensive transformation at the Highland Hospital campus in Oakland, CA.

Buildings where humans seek healing and treatment should be some of the healthiest and most sustainable buildings of all, right?

Operating 24/7, hospitals have enormous process loads—often 40% of the total energy load for a building. Because of this, at least in California, these building types are exempt from meeting the State’s progressive energy codes and regulations. Healthcare buildings are largely left out of the conversation of improving building performance and reducing energy use unless they adopt voluntary measures or commit to a green building certification system such as LEED. Therefore, it is easy to understand our excitement when a healthcare client commits to aiming high, and the folks at the Highland Hospital Campus in Oakland have done just that.

SmithGroupJJR and our design-build partners won a competition to design and implement a $668 million, three-phase transformation of the existing Highland Hospital Campus in Oakland. Marking Phase 1 completion of the master plan, we are thrilled to report that the new Highland Care Pavilion achieves a 31% reduction in its energy use over California’s stringent Title 24 Energy Code, a major contributor toward surpassing the design goal of LEED Silver certification to reach LEED Gold. Although the Highland Care Pavilion functions as an outpatient care facility and is not enduring the same intensive use as the 24/7 hospital tower being constructed in Phase 2, many strategies employed for this building will be able to be transferred to the Phase 2 and Phase 3 buildings.

One of the coolest innovations contributing to the building’s high performance is an aspect of the mechanical system, designed to take advantage of Oakland’s climate to provide some ‘free cooling’ to the building. This works by taking cooled (66°) condenser water from the cooling tower as the first pass for warm (90°) outside air entering at the air intake. This reduces the temperature delta required to reach the peak cooling temperature (54°) that has to be achieved by next passing over a chilled water coil – effectively pre-cooling with condenser water that would otherwise be waste. And the efficiency of the whole system is improved with the introduction of an electromagnetic water filtration system, which keeps scale from building up inside the pipes without added chemicals to the process water. In addition to avoiding the use of chemicals, the absence of build-up allows for heat transfer to occur efficiently through the coils and for water to be saved with reduced need for blow-down or maintenance within the system.

This free cooling allowed for right-sizing the chillers to a smaller capacity and eliminating some energy efficiency software, saving the Pavilion over $500,000. We’re applying the same principles on the Phase 2 hospital tower, reflecting further savings to the tune of $1.4 million. Now that’s cool!

The upcoming phased buildings are also able to take advantage of a lesson-learned on the Highland Care Pavilion in regards to the automation of motorized shades. Initially cut from the project for cost reasons, the value of introducing automation into the waiting and public spaces wasn’t recognized until after completion. Now, our client is incorporating motorized shades into the heliostat on the roof post-construction. Documents for the Phase 2 and Phase 3 buildings will add this automation in all south-facing public spaces.

The Highland Care Pavilion isn’t stopping there. It is also using 100% outside air to improve indoor air quality. Careful consideration of providing natural daylight and views at perimeter waiting and circulation spaces and using safe, non-toxic materials and a soothing color palette further contribute to the creation of a healthy healing environment.

We’ve long been aware of the impact that a building can have on human health, and are proud of being part of a project that focuses on patient care and health AND does it part to reduce its operational impact on the environment. The LEED Gold Highland Care Pavilion is just the kind of healthy public building in which we appreciate receiving care, and we can’t wait to tell you about the next one…Stay tuned!

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