Building Sustainable Health Facilities | Planning, BIM and construction today

Considering budget constraints, net zero commitments, and occupant well-being, construction professionals must consider developing more sustainable healthcare facilities. Steve Richmond of REHAU Building Solutions explains how essential sound design principles are

Hospital building is in the spotlight as the National Audit Office plans to review the government’s commitment to build 40 new hospitals by 2030. With questions raised over costs amid spiraling inflation is a question that also resonates with construction professionals. support developments in the field of health.

Given that healthcare facilities account for approximately 4.6% of global carbon emissions, there is also growing pressure to adopt sustainable measures in line with net zero goals.

While considering all of the above, the well-being of patients and staff must be a priority. Indeed, recent reports show that there is a direct link between poor healthcare environments and increased levels of stress and anxiety. As such, it is more important than ever to ensure healthcare facilities are “healthy by design” in the context of both occupant well-being and environmental impact.

How can construction professionals approach the design of sustainable healthcare facilities?

With all of these factors to consider, it is important to better understand what construction professionals consider to be priorities for building design. That’s why REHAU surveyed 520 M&E designers and architects as part of its Designing Healthy series.

Naturally, durability was of the utmost importance to contractors when asked about their top priorities in specifying construction materials – followed closely by cost. Nevertheless, 98% were willing to pay extra for a product with a longer expected lifespan. In the future, implementing resilient and healthy design features will be key to economic development that does not lose sight of sustainability and occupant well-being.

Offsite Construction as the New Norm for Building Healthcare Facilities

As a starting point, offsite construction has the potential to become the new industry standard when building healthcare facilities. It has been proven to be faster than its on-site counterpart, it helps reduce embodied emissions for construction and reduces noise pollution for building occupants. Additionally, offsite construction can help provide better quality control while reducing project costs.

Such a combination of factors is certainly a strong argument in favor of this technique. Additionally, the REHAU survey found that 58% believed the demand for offsite construction methods would increase in light of the recent pandemic – another sign that new approaches to healthcare construction should be adopted.

District heating in healthcare facilities

The heating and cooling of the facility itself is a significant part of the energy demand in the healthcare sector. As such, greener methods of providing heat will be key to achieving net zero goals.

District heating is one such application that aligns with this goal, but generational technology plays a role here. Currently, fourth-generation networks hold the most potential as they circulate water at 40C-60C for lower heat loss and greater carbon savings.

District heating networks distribute heat and hot water via pre-insulated steel or polymer pipes buried underground. Building professionals should keep in mind that the lower temperature of fourth-generation systems makes them better suited for polymer solutions, as opposed to steel.

Acoustic performance in healthcare projects

Acoustics are a key consideration in healthcare projects – demonstrated by 91% citing it as either “important” or “very important” in REHAU’s survey. Research from King’s College London points to the underlying reason for these findings, indicating that noise levels in intensive care units regularly exceed 100 decibels.

Although most noise is likely to originate from general hospital activity, building services are another source of noise which, importantly, can be minimized through effective design and specification. A great example here is the discharge of sewage as it passes through the floor and drains, which can disrupt those in adjoining rooms. In these scenarios, solutions such as REHAU’s RAUPIANO PLUS deliver 17 dB(A) performance at 4 l/s flow rates to virtually eliminate running water noise or vibration.

Drinking water is the key to the well-being of the occupants

The supply of drinking water is another important factor for the well-being of the occupants. Avoiding contamination from internal and external sources is essential to safeguard the health of patients and staff.

Since metal is the traditional material of choice for this application, the most commonly specified materials for heating and water pipe installations are copper and steel. However, recent findings suggest that other materials are increasingly being considered.

Notably, 83% of REHAU survey respondents said they always specify fittings that contain lead, which can enter the drinking water supply if plumbing is not properly maintained. With this in mind, it is possible that multi-layer composite pipes (MLCP) will prove to be an effective successor to metal pipes.

Scalable healthcare facilities from the start

REHAU’s report revealed how sustainability, profitability and well-being concerns collide across project builds. While it is certainly difficult to balance these priorities, innovative approaches can help construction professionals create scalable healthcare facilities from the start.

To download the full REHAU report, Designing Healthy Healthcare, click here.

Steve Richmond

Marketing and technical manager

REHAU building solutions

Tel: +44 (0)1989 762600

[email protected]






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