Seeing green: Practice harmonizes with its environment
VSEC decided to take the extra steps necessary to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified, a designation conferred by the U.S. Green Building Council indicating a superior level of environmentally responsible building. "No other veterinary practice has taken that step, so we decided we would show that it could be done," Dr. Jens says. "Veterinarians can do it."
The design-build firm that VSEC worked with has submitted documentation of the green aspects of the building project. While approval of the paperwork and an on-site visit by Green Building Council representatives to kick the tires (so to speak) is pending, the building is considered "LEED-registered."VSEC's efforts focused on three main areas: the grounds, the building, and hospital operations. Here's how this 10-doctor, three-owner specialty practice went green. Maybe their ideas will inspire thoughts for your own environmentally friendly project.
The right white. A white roof reflects solar energy and reduces the need for cooling, which is the most energy-intense function of the hospital. Plentiful windows serve to maximize natural light and improve the work environment for employees.
Smart flooring. Unlike vinyl tile, VSEC's low-maintenance ceramic tile and epoxy flooring means no stripping and waxing or using the associated nasty chemicals.
Fresh air. The hospital used low- to no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and adhesives that wouldn't volatilize into the air. Team members also researched and chose green cleaning chemicals for windows, surfaces, floors, and laundry. "The staff appreciates this a lot—they say it feels healthier, that the air they're breathing is clean and fresh," Dr. Jens says. "And it's better for the community when we dispose of the wastewater. Of course, with parvovirus, we're still going to pull out the bleach."
A light touch. VSEC uses fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs in a plan that maximizes task lighting. Lighting is installed only where it's necessary. This reduces the need for large, overhead broadcast lighting. Many of the lights are also on timers so they shut off when they're not being used, which maximizes bulb life.