By Roxanne Squires
AUSTIN, Texas — The Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas at Austin, a project from the facility management companies of Medxcel and Ascension, was recently recognized for green design and construction methods, receiving high honors after opening in May 2017. The 517,000-square-foot facility in Austin, hosts 13 operating rooms and 211 beds, securing a new health care innovation zone in downtown Austin with sustainability leading to its core value.
Dell Seton continues Ascension’s legacy of green building leadership, with this being the third LEED certification for Ascension Texas, according to a statement. Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas previously received two LEED Platinum certifications. Ascension also holds two Austin Energy Green Building five-star projects. In the program’s 26-year history, only six commercial projects have been awarded five stars.
Michael Argrir, CEO and president of Medxcel, explained the many design features that were implemented, which created an exemplary environment for patient healing and the education of future healthcare practitioners, thus leading to the facility’s achievement of LEED Gold and 4-Star Austin Energy Green Building certifications.
For example, interior courtyards and adjacent University of Texas (UT) campus greenspace provide verdant areas to patients, associates and visitors. Drought-tolerant native and non-invasive adapted plants are 100 percent irrigated with condensate water collected from the building’s air handling units. Additionally, innovative vegetated bioswales control stormwater quality into Waller Creek in order to protect and treat rainwater that flows directly into Lake Austin. Water-efficient plumbing fixtures and equipment help reduce domestic potable water use by more than 35 percent as compared with a typical hospital.
Other sustainable features of the hospital include environmentally desirable materials and products with recycled content that were regionally extracted and manufactured, along with FSC-certified wood, rapidly renewable materials and avoidance of chemicals of concern. Low VOC content materials were used for all interior and exterior adhesives and sealants, paints and coatings. Agrifiber products and batt insulation with no added urea formaldehyde are also utilized. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills.
These features, among countless others, are what led DSMCUT to achieve this immense feat. The decision to place the project in the urban location of the center of downtown Austin on the University of Texas campus played a major factor in the sustainable features that set DSMCUT apart. Due to this location, associates and visitors have excellent access to public transportation. In addition, the hospital encourages the use of alternative transportation by providing bike racks and parking priority to hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles as well as to employees who carpool. The hospital installed nine electric vehicle charging stations in the parking garage to supplement the other sustainable transportation initiatives that the project implemented.
Though initial costs of implementing these sustainable design features were higher than that of a less sustainable project, the long-term effects of these initiatives will help to counter other costs and will benefit the patient care and caregivers.
For example, DSMCUT is making noticeable progress through mitigation and resiliency programs, investing in energy efficiency and renewably-generated electricity. As most can likely assume, energy and electricity are mounting costs for hospitals. By offsetting these through sustainable practices, hospitals can actually save money and have the unique opportunity to address climate change.
The hospital also helps counterbalance water costs by reducing water use through water-efficient plumbing fixtures like low-flow faucets, shower heads, toilets and urinals, and efficient process water systems such as sterilizers, kitchen dishwashers and ice machines. The courtyard and street plants are native, drought-tolerant species irrigated with reclaimed condensate water from the building’s air-handling units.
Experience the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas in 360° video: