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Northeast Georgia Medical Center Installing Geothermal Field at Future Braselton Hospital

Published on August 19, 2013

Work is underway on the geothermal field being installed on the site of the future Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Braselton.  The geothermal well boring subcontractor mobilized on site the first week of June and drilling for over 150 wells began in early July. These 500-foot wells will circulate water to create renewable energy to heat and cool the future hospital.

This innovative sustainability practice is one of many being implemented at the future hospital, enabling the Medical Center to apply for Gold Level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Healthcare Certification.  LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using environmentally conscious processes and materials.  In 2011, USGBC unveiled the LEED for Healthcare Certification (LEED-HC) guidelines, recognizing the regulatory, operational and programmatic demands unique to health care.  Depending on timing, the new NGMC Braselton, set to open in Spring 2015, could be the first hospital in the country to achieve LEED Gold-HC certification.

“Sustainability is an important area of focus for the new Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton,” says Anthony Williamson, vice president of Greater Braselton Development.  “We are developing what’s called a ‘greenfield’ hospital on a beautiful piece of previously undisturbed property, so we want to protect the integrity of that landscape as much as possible.”

Some question if green practices are always the most cost effective, and that’s something Williamson said Northeast Georgia Health System investigated thoroughly.

“During the planning stages of the geothermal fields, we conducted a lifecycle analysis that encompassed the initial cost of the system and the operating costs.  The results showed that the geothermal fields will allow $14 million savings over the next 30 years, and it will only take five to seven years to pay back the investment.”

“We’ve done a lot of things with energy efficiency that you just don’t normally see in buildings,” says Rudy Lonergan, director of Facilities Management at NGMC.  “We’re targeting a 60 percent total energy reduction in what is consumed by a typical hospital and a 35 percent reduction in water consumption.”

Other sustainability practices include using “purple pipe” non-potable, reclaimed water for irrigation and “dark sky” lighting, which creates an umbrella effect and keeps the glow of the hospital lighting confined to the boundaries of the site, reducing light pollution.  Also, many of the materials selected for NGMC Braselton were manufactured within 500 miles of the site and have high recycled content.

“We have also had a keen focus on using qualified, local contractors, vendors and workmen whenever possible to help stimulate the economy in the surrounding area,” adds Lonergan.

The sustainability practices extend beyond just the NGMC Braselton structure and are being applied throughout the building process. In fact, out of 210 active Turner Construction sites, NGMC Braselton earned the title of a Turner Green Zone project and under that title, ranked seventh in the country for sustainability. Turner Green Zone projects, like NGMC Braselton, reduce the environmental impact of building operations, minimize operating costs through energy and water efficiency and reduced material consumption, and provide a healthier and more productive workplace environment for Turner staff.

“We know being a good steward of the environment is important to our neighbors and community residents as well,” says Williamson.  “This was a message we heard clearly through the information-gathering sessions and surveys we conducted last year as we started the planning process for the new hospital.”

Those involved in the NGMC Braselton planning process wanted to be energy efficient while also being innovative.  In doing so, close to $3.5 million was budgeted toward implementing sustainability advancements.  Some procedures being put into operation contribute to LEED-HC certification and others are simply best practices.  In addition to using geothermal wells, reclaimed water for irrigation and “dark sky” lighting, other best practices being implemented at NGMC Braselton include:

  • Using interior LED lighting in select areas to provide greater illumination through a more energy efficient technology than traditional lighting. LED lighting gives off more lumens than a typical incandescent or fluorescent fixtures, and the LED bulbs tend to last several times longer than typical bulbs.
  • Using insulated window glazing to resist heat conduction to the building, keeping the building cooler in an energy efficient way.
  • Installing exterior sun screens that project horizontally above the windows on the building to help mitigate heat conduction.
  • Creating small green roof awnings that will be located over the exterior doors from the cafeteria to the courtyard dining area. These green roofs will act as a type of sun shade that will keep the sun’s rays from directly hitting the area below, keeping the glass on the doorways cooler. Highly drought resistant vegetation will be planted on top of the green roofs that will require little maintenance, while adding to the beauty of the building’s landscaping.

“Northeast Georgia Medical Center is a leader in healthcare delivery in our state,” Williamson says, “and we want to lead the way for other healthcare facilities in lessening our impact on the surrounding environment as we build this state-of-the-art hospital.”

To learn more about NGMC Braselton, click here or call 770-219-3840.

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