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Durability Is Key To Green Healthcare Interiors

By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor - December 2013 - Health Care Facilities

sustainability, interior design, healthcare facilities, leed, interior furnishings, interior finishes, materials selection

Ask those responsible for making green interiors finishes selections in healthcare what "sustainability" means, and one word leaps out: durability. Unlike an office environment, healthcare interiors take a daily beating. Heavy wear and tear, frequent washing and sanitizing with sometimes harsh chemicals, and really long refresh cycles mean that the first consideration in a healthcare interiors selection is whether something is going to last or disintegrate into chips and splinters and have to be replaced.

"We're pretty hard on our facility," says Theresa Besse, interior designer, construction engineering, Gundersen Health System. Gundersen was called out by the White House for the 2013 Public Health and Climate Change "Champions of Change" list. Besse cites a rubber flooring selection they favor that has a "great green story" but mainly maintains well with just soap and water and does some self-healing. "It holds up to what we put it through," she says.

This quest for durability also means protecting things that shouldn't wear out, like doors and walls, by avoiding doing things like punching holes in them. "Floors wear out, but doors really shouldn't," Besse says. "If you protect your doors, they should last forever. The biggest thing is protecting the things that won't wear out."

But durability is only the tip of the attribute iceberg when making sustainable interiors selections. Other factors include material composition, chemicals of concern, recycled content and recyclability, manufacturing process and location, and transportation process, to name a few.


Chemicals of Concern

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative has identified six chemicals of concern for healthcare interiors. Its Safer Chemicals Challenge provides strategies and mentorship for reducing chemicals such as mercury, polyvinyl chloride, and brominated fire retardants from product lines, furniture, and facility interior finishes. Click here for more information.

Click here for more pointers on green product selection.


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