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As Reimbursements Decline, Providers Find it Easier to Go Green

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, October 22, 2010

With a need for a 100,000-square-foot medical office building, Armstrong knew he had the critical mass to make a LEED-certified building pay off. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the organization provides third-party certification for certain stages of environmentally friendly architectural and structural design.

Basically, it measures how energy efficient and environmentally friendly a building design is, and while the certification isn't always a tool to save money, that's exactly what happened in the Oregon Clinic's case.

LEED is relatively new in healthcare, says Armstrong, who completed the building in late 2006, and is just now able to do some cost benefit analysis on the features of the clinic's new medical office building.

"A lot of the initiatives have historically been used in commercial office building settings, and with the different requirements that medical construction has, some didn't transfer well," he says.

That meant being inventive with design.

"The interesting thing is you can't tell it's an environmentally friendly building just on a cursory glance," he says.
The main initiatives that got Oregon Clinic the coveted "Gold" certification from LEED are invisible to the viewer, but not to the bottom line.

Rather than having rain runoff (with which Portland is unusually blessed) diverted to the storm sewer system, it goes directly into a storage tank which then uses the water for flushing toilets and irrigation. It's a seamless system, and when the tank gets low, usually toward the end of summer, it automatically switches the toilets to city water. The tank can also be used for watering of outside vegetation, if necessary. That saves the clinic about $5,500 annually on its water bill.

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