With LEED Gold certification mounted on the wall, MedPark Hospital joins the elite of international hospitals rigorously checked-up for sustainable building design – and that’s not just good for the planet; it’s best for medical practitioner performance and patient treatment outcomes too.
It's easy to make bold claims about standards and quality based on little more than hot air. But by general agreement, to be entitled to burnish your image with LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification testifies to truly tangible, measurable and quantifiable performance and achievement in today’s relentlessly exacting world of sustainable building design.
Put simply, LEED is the world’s most recognised sustainable building certification standard and the undisputed leading symbol of sustainability excellence and green building leadership. Its stamp of approval signifies that a hospital, or for that matter a hotel, shopping centre, office, condominium or factory etc., is lowering carbon emissions, conserving resources, reducing operating costs, prioritizing sustainable practices and creating a healthier environment to the greatest extent possible.
Of all the various certifications available to businesses and buildings, LEED is generally recognised as the most stringent; the one you don’t even attempt if you’re not prepared to go all-in.
There is little comfort in the fact that four levels of certification are available, in a descending order of Platinum, Gold, Silver and plain vanilla Certified level. Buildings built before “green” became more a culture than a colour have the steepest mountain to climb.
But with its LEED Gold certificate now mounted on the wall, MedPark has ticked all the boxes to join the exclusive club of the highest-rated new hospital buildings in Southeast Asia thus far, according to Ravula Rohith Reddy, Associate Director – Market Development of Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI), LEED’s international third-party credentialing and verification service, who presented the framed certificate to the project leaders on a steamy Bangkok Thursday, 4 August 2022. Furthermore, he points out, MedPark Hospital is the first hospital in Southeast Asia to implement the most advanced and rigorous version of LEED – LEED v4 Building Design & Construction.
Coming to the greenfield MedPark Hospital table with seven hospitals already in its portfolio, it was game-on for TPP Healthcare International Co., Ltd. (TPP), the main shareholder, and the eminent group of specialist doctors, including veterans of US practice, it corralled for the flagship project.
With the added ambition to help drive national policy to establish Bangkok as a rock-solid internationally-recognised medical services hub, everything had to be built from the bottom up. The work began with a concept and design team that included not only some of the biggest young local talents who grew up taking “green” for granted but also GBCI itself, founded in 2008 with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council to provide independent oversight of professional credentialing and project certification for LEED.
That way sustainability and medical care-enhancing design, systems, materials and technology could be built into every window, wall, floor and ceiling, not to mention the air-conditioning, ventilation, lighting and waste disposal.
“The LEED certification for this project is a humongous achievement,” enthused Rohit in a side meeting. “LEED is implemented in 180+ countries globally, so MedPark joins the pace-setters in this benchmark raising global community of green buildings.”
It was the gratifying goal-achievement of a project that began pre-drawing board stage. “This is the first time we have engineered rigorous green considerations into the DNA of one of our hospitals from scratch,” pointed out Dr. Pongpat Patanavanich M.D., TPP’s Managing Director.
“By adopting LEED standards from the beginning we managed to avoid the unforeseen issues you tend to get with construction projects, let alone one that has ambitions to be a world class hospital,” he continued. “A good example would be damp which, once it condenses onto walls, generates moisture and promotes fungal growth that the air-conditioning just recycles, making it worse.”
“So right from the start we knew the materials and engineering we needed to avoid that kind of thing and keep control of the climate and environment inside the hospital, and we sourced materials and contracted accordingly.”
“Of course, it costs more to do it that way but the payback is sure and steady, side-stepping the necessity of do-overs and renovations and lowering energy costs which is all part of the true meaning of sustainable.”
“But the main purpose isn’t to find economies,” he hastens to add. “Our vision and mission is to effectively treat patients with high acuity or complex diseases and for that we need to put their wellbeing, and also that of our medical practitioners, on the same uncompromising footing.”
“It's very important for healthcare segment to choose LEED certification,” says Dr. Pongpat. “You know, healthcare professionals are under tremendous pressure because they work long hours and their patients’ health and life is in their hands, so ideally, their work environment should be conducive to calm, efficiency and effectiveness.”
Listening to Dr. Pongpat alerts one to the surroundings and, yes indeed, the air does seem unusually light and fresh.
In terms of tired building syndrome, the enemy is CO2, which builds in concentration with air-conditioning systems that simply recirculate internal air. The higher the CO2 content, the more it saps your energy and concentration.
Most hospitals take special care in operating theatres, clean rooms and intensive care wards but not throughout the entire building; a key performance indicator for LEED. So you can be sitting in the Starbucks in the spotlessly clean foyer of MedPark Hospital sipping a Caramel Macchiato while enjoying a complimentary scrubbed air treatment.
To achieve this, the air conditioning is two-fold; one plant cleans, cools and dehumidifies the fresh air and another unit directs chilled water to designated areas.
Moreover, as Dr. Chumrurn Sorapipatana, Chief Administrative Officer, chips in, “The air pressure inside the building is slightly higher than outside, hence, no recirculation of the indoor air as it seeps out one-way from the interior, thereby increasing the air change rate and ventilation of the entire building.”
That’s also good for the PM 2.5 count which will become completely transparent when digital signage goes up soon outside the hospital disclosing the precise level in real time. Moreover, extensive gauges keep track of all the atmospheric conditions throughout the hospital and feed the data to a control room and to an app the building technician team carry with them on their phones.
Another important element is lighting. “Studies show that exposure to natural daylight and greenery is calming and uplifting for everyone,” Rohit highlights, nodding towards the green vista beyond a hermetically sealed picture window. With floor-to-ceiling glass throughout, the same goes for every patient room and pretty much the entire building.
Meanwhile, LED (not to be confused with LEED) lighting is filtered to avoid glare so you don’t have to squint when you’re stretched out on a stretcher trying to acknowledge the latest instruction from nurse.
Though not an LEED requirement, discreet accessibility respecting patient privacy, a high priority among patients from many cultures, is also integrated. That way patients being treated with chemotherapy or haemodialysis, in particular, can come and go completely privately, out of sight of strangers.
If you’re wondering if they also have solar energy, here’s the thing: electricity in a hospital has to be 100% reliable. Life support systems can’t have a power cut and the lights can’t go out in the operating theatres, just for starters. Energy-wise, as a hospital MedPark is allowed to be plugged into the grid through two electricity substations in addition to having its own backup generator in reserve and UPS points everywhere.
So has it all been worthwhile? Are medical professionals choosing to practice there and are patients clamouring to be treated there as a direct or indirect result of LEED?
“People these days are very aware that LEED certifies a business or building’s green credentials and what the importance of that is,” says Dr. Pongpat.
And there’s certainly no doubt that it’s caught on among expectant mothers. Somthawin Patanavanich, Co-Founder & Advisor mentions that MedPark Hospital is doing particularly brisk business in baby deliveries.
As for going forward, the task now is to maintain and, if possible, better the LEED credential. As such, Rohit isn’t riding off into the sunset just yet.
“We will be continuing to visit Bangkok frequently and working closely with MedPark Hospital and they can reach out to us at any time,” he concludes.