In November, 2002, the very first Greenbuild took place right here in Austin. About 4,000 people attended and I remember thinking “Wow. This is amazing. The people here really get it.” Fast forward seven years to Boston last November, where we had almost 30,000 at Greenbuild. Who knew back then that we would be turning an idea into a movement that so many people would come to “get” as a pathway for saving energy, water and money? Creating jobs? Impacting the health of both people and the planet?
You are blessed in so many ways. You have a city with a strong cultural tradition of sustainability. Mayor Wynn has long been a passionate voice for green building and energy efficiency, providing significant leadership at state and national levels, and among his mayoral peers. The Zero Energy Homes program made Austin a clear national leader on home energy efficiency.
Texas boasts nearly 100 LEED certified buildings and has a tremendous track record with LEED for Schools, one of the most important initiatives we have undertaken. Austin is also home to the Center for Maximum Building Potential, which was established long before USGBC was even a glimmer of an idea.
At the helm of that organization is a truly astonishing woman, who you know as Gail Vittori, but who I call Madam Chair, as she is this year, chair of USGBC and my boss. Much of the work Gail and her husband Pliny have been about these last 30 years has been founded upon a simple, but revolutionary idea – that the buildings in which we live and work and play can nurture instead of harm, can restore instead of consume, can inspire instead of restrain.
There’s a strong business reason to build green -- Because green buildings save energy, water and money, they make good sense for any enterprise. But there’s another equally important reason to build green – the impact building design has on human health and well-being.
And it is in healthcare where daylight filled, nature-connected, less pollutant filled buildings can have a huge impact. Healthcare facilities construction is about a $41billion industry. Healthcare facilities use nearly twice as much energy per square foot as office buildings, accounting for a $3 billion+ spend each year in electricity alone. Building them green, with the operational efficiencies that entails, can help control their greenhouse gas emissions as well as their energy bills, not a small thing in the margin-constrained environment that is health care.
In the case of hospitals, we have another important reason to build green. We have plenty of evidence that design, construction and operations can impact patient health and staff well-being and productivity. Building green hospitals is not just about doing what’s right for our planet, it’s about how the healthcare industry can help broaden and refine the definition of green building to include human health and vitality.
Clearly Dell Children’s Medical has done that with this exceptional new LEED Platinum building. There are only 119 Platinum level buildings around the country, and it is those buildings that continue to define the leading edge of building design, construction and operation. You’ll see a lot of what Dell has learned in the new LEED for Healthcare Rating System that will be released for pilot later this year. It will take into account a hospital’s fundamental mission to heal – placing emphasis on issues such as increased sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants, traveling distance to parking, access to nature and the outdoors.
With its Platinum rating, Dell has pioneered the next generation of evidence-based design, proving that healthcare facilities can be built to meet patient needs as well as environmental needs – as it should. As Gail likes to point out, you can’t have healthy people on a sick planet. Connecting the dots between evidence-based design and evidence-based medicine is a huge step in the right direction.
On behalf of the U.S. Green Building Council, we present this plaque, the visible symbol of all the work and care and love that went into making this project an icon of green building. All of us are grateful for the leadership you’ve shown and we’re excited about what this means for moving green building forward in healthcare.