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February 13, 2014 -
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At the Portland (Ore.) VA Medical Center, setting up a comprehensive guide to specifying interior materials has helped shape the facility's green interiors efforts. Here's the guide was developed.
To start, says Mielisse Kuhn, project manager, determine which product is specified the most and use that as the first product to develop standards for.
For the Portland VA, flooring was the place to start. Located in Oregon, meeting the LEED requirement for sourcing within 500 miles would have really limited the available flooring choices, so instead they looked at recycled content and recyclability and tried to look at benchmarks for what would be equitable with a product that was sourced from within 500 miles of the medical center, she says.
Kuhn acknowledges that making sustainable interiors decisions is not exactly cut and dry. The medical center used to specify VCT but stopped based on the impact of its manufacturing process and what is done with it at end of life.
When it came time to specify furniture, especially office furniture, which is what is most often ordered, Kuhn expected the 500-mile parameter to again limit their choices, as most furniture is manufactured in the Midwest. To her surprise they were able to source from well within the LEED-preferred radius, and the manufacturer sourced the raw wood and metal materials from only an hour south of the medical center. That allows the VA's clinics to say not only did taxpayer dollars go to sustainable choices, but they also went to support the local economy.