A Healthy Prescription: The Benefits Of Green Roofs In Healthcare Facilities

Green roofs can do great things to enhance the patient experience in healthcare facilities. These so called “Healing Gardens” offer bottom line opportunities to improve patient outcomes, and also present unique challenges for the designer, contractor and owner which require careful system design, installation and maintenance.

Healthcare facilities represent a large percentage of urban and suburban construction in North America. These facilities are vital to the well-being of the communities they serve. Studies have shown that the environment within these facilities can have a negative or positive impact on patient care. Facilities that incorporate accessible green and open spaces within the campus aid in the recovery of the patients as well as improving the working environment for the healthcare providers and visitors. Rooftop “Healing Gardens“ have proven to be a major benefit in improving the patient experience and can directly save hospitals money by helping to reduce staff turnover.

Healthcare facilities offer some unique challenges associated with the construction of outdoor green amenity spaces over occupied or parking deck areas. Many of these facilities are located in urban areas and have been expanded several times over, since initial construction. Land is often at a premium and it is expensive to design open green space on grade. The need for improved storm water management and urban heat island mitigation are also important factors to consider. Roofing and building enclosure maintenance are also a concern.

It is essential that an experienced design and construction team be selected for these sensitive projects. Waterproofing systems with documented long lifecycle performance and low maintenance requirements should be given strong consideration. Hospitals often have access challenges and need systems that do not require excessive maintenance or repair and replacement on a regular basis. Healthcare facilities also have air quality concerns around occupied buildings. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) can find their way into air intake systems and can cause major disruptions to operations. Healing garden projects are often intensive green roofs, requiring deep growing media systems that often include pavers or other pedestrian access systems for the enjoyment of the building occupants. The green roof system selection needs to take into consideration the access and use of the area, plant integrity, human interaction as well as irrigation and other maintenance requirements. Here are two very successful projects, which illustrate some of the unique benefits of installing green roofs on hospitals.

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