Just Around the Riverbend

With the opening of its expanded facility planned for later this year, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital shows how less can be more when it comes to the environment

Believe it or not, hospitals are the third most water-intensive public buildings in the United States. According to Healthcare Design magazine, hospitals use an average 570 gallons of water per staffed bed each day. To put that in perspective, the average American household of four uses 400 gallons of water per day—a fraction of the use of a single hospital bed.

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford will soon debut a $1-billion expansion to its Palo Alto, California, location. The project, which started in 2012, is part of the organization’s mission to accommodate the very different needs of children, mothers, and researchers. Plans for the expansion involve strategies to better conserve water.

Clean water is necessary in caring for children and families, of course. In controlling how that water is used—and reused—the hospital also can maintain services such as heating, cooling, sterilization, and sanitation by using only what it needs.

The expansion, set to open this year, emphasizes sustainability, which the hospital hopes will help it achieve LEED Gold certification. Once completed, the facility will measure 821,000 square feet, and will house 330 beds, which can expand to 361 beds. In addition to adding beds and space, the expansion’s design could allow the hospital to save 2.5 million gallons of water each year.

Sustainability is nothing new for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The initial structure was designed during a drought in the 1980s, so using water effectively was front-of-mind for the architects and planners. The grounds, for example, as well as many of its plants, were chosen to survive a drought.

“Sustainability is a guiding principle in everything we do,” said Lucile Packard’s President and CEO Christopher Dawes in an interview with Business Wire. “It’s part of being a good neighbor and a member of the larger community, and ensuring we’re doing the best thing possible when it comes to preserving all of our environmental resources.”

That includes using the weather to its advantage. Lucile Packard is introducing new irrigation controllers that will save water while sustaining four acres of gardens and green space open to patients, families, visitors, and staff.

The native plants landscapers are adding to these spaces have been chosen for their minimal use of water: yarrow, flax lily, mountain lilac, lavender, and sage. The new grasses that will form the lawns require little to no water at all, and what water is needed to sustain the grass and plants will be supplied from a cistern or natural runoff. These cisterns, which are two underground containers that can carry up to 55,000 gallons of water, hold water collected from rain and condensation. Distilled water produced by dialysis equipment will also funnel to the cisterns, ensuring a source of water even when there is no rain. This might seem like a series of small steps, but to a hospital housed in drought-stricken California, it’s important for any building project that plans to blend green spaces with sustainability.

Changes aren’t restricted to just the building’s exterior. The organization’s plan includes water-conserving dishwashers and sterilizers, which the hospital says will use 80 percent less water than its average counterparts. Low-flow bathroom fixtures have been installed throughout the hospital—not just in the expansion—and Lucile Packard will no longer use water-cooled pumps and air compressors. Altogether, these updates will allow the hospital to use 38 percent less water than in a comparable hospital, according to the building’s planner.

The hospital has also adopted an external shading system, limiting the amount of direct sunlight that makes its way into the building. As a result, the hospital reduces its need for air conditioning and the subsequent use of water and energy. Hospital leaders say the building will use nearly 60 percent less energy than the average Northern California hospital.

All of these measures will make the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital one of the most energy- and water-efficient hospitals in California, and possibly in North America. Although its sustainability is incredibly important, its primary function is still as a hospital, and its design emphasizes the latest treatments and programs in the industry. Lucile Packard’s nationally ranked Pediatric Heart Center will grow as part of the expansion. Other programs, such as the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services and the Bass Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, will add to the new space.

Beyond square footage and sustainability, the expansion will also add new technology. State-of-the-art imaging advancements, including a neuro-hybrid operating suite with diagnostic and imaging equipment, will be available to patients. The expansion also adds an area called the “story corner,” with scheduled storytelling sessions and a small library and interactive wall for patients.

Thanks to its commitment to sustainability, additional space, and improved technology, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital not only will be one of the most technologically advanced children’s hospitals in the United States; it will also become a good neighbor to the Northern California community. The expansion establishes a model for what some of the most water-inefficient buildings in existence can do to create a healthier environment for both patients and nature.