SJCH first hospital in SC to be awarded LEED certification

September 03, 2021
photo taken several stories up of the sun peeking around the glass walls of the hospital
MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women's Pavilion is the first comprehensive, built from-the-ground-up hospital in the state to achieve LEED status, according to designers Perkins+Will. Photos by Brennan Wesley

MUSC Children’s Health leaders are celebrating silver – specifically, the LEED Silver certification for MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. 

The recently bestowed designation makes SJCH&PTWP the first comprehensive, built-from-scratch hospital in South Carolina to achieve LEED certification, a status that indicates the building meets specific environmental and sustainability goals. LEED stands for “leadership in energy and environmental design.”

There have been medical office building construction and renovations in the state that have achieved LEED status, said project designers from Perkins+Will, but until now no hospitals. Hospitals, with their intense energy and water usage, have a harder time meeting LEED goals than a typical office or retail building.

Despite the challenge, achieving LEED status was a core component of the architectural design from the initial planning stages, said Mark Scheurer, M.D., chief of Women’s and Children’s Services. South Carolina requires state-funded buildings larger than 10,000 square feet to comply with either LEED or Green Globes, another “green” building certification. It was a goal that MUSC Children’s Health gladly accepted.

The building is a physical manifestation of the Medical University of South Carolina’s commitment to improving the health of all South Carolinians. Not only is there physical healing occurring within the building, but the building itself contributes less pollution and consumes less resources than similar non-LEED-type facilities, thereby reducing its impact on the environment and the health of humans who breathe the air and must deal with the disruptions of climate change.

“Pursuing LEED certification advanced our commitment to sustainability in our buildings and furthered our commitment to creating environments for our care team and patients that take the best from the environment and introduce them into the building,” Scheurer said.

Randy Maxwell, project designer with Perkins+Will, said LEED considers the totality of a project from the macro – how well it fits into its surroundings and responds to local environmental factors, like flooding or hurricanes – to the micro, like the types of adhesives and sealants used.

Much of it has to do with how the building lessens stressors on the people inside; for example, by reducing glare from the sun. He also pointed out that the designers challenged themselves to create a building in such a way as to be sensitive to those on the autism spectrum by reducing noise.

Acoustic echoes, sudden noises and loud noises are known as triggers to children on the autism spectrum, said project designer Aiko Tanabe.

“It’s not helpful for children on the spectrum, but in general, nobody likes echoes or being stuck in a loud room with echoey surfaces,” she said.

Acoustic environment is also part of LEED certification, so designers ensured that sound-absorbing finishes were used.

The designers also considered impact on people when they chose the floors. Vinyl is popular in health care settings because it can stand up to stringent cleanings, but vinyl comes with the off-gassing problem – that “new car smell” that some enjoy but actually consists of volatile organic compounds that can cause reactions in some people. Instead, most of the floors in the hospital are linoleum, an old-school flooring that’s made of renewable resources.

a pinkish sunrise as viewed from the terrace with lush green plants on the balcony and blue pond belowThe designers sought to integrate the surrounding environment into the building.

When the building was first planned, LED lights were used in about half of her projects, Tanabe said. The other projects she was working on used fluorescent lights.

“MUSC had the foresight to say, ‘By the time this is done, LED is probably going to be mainstream’ – which it is completely, 100% right now. And LED uses so much less power,” she said.

Further, the design team worked to choose light fixtures and place them so that rooms had enough light without being blasted by brightness.

Although the hospital has been in use since February 2020, leaders learned only this summer that it had earned LEED certification. Christine von Kolnitz, sustainability and energy manager for the MUSC Health Charleston-Division, said that the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers LEED, wants to see that buildings are actually functioning in the sustainable manner that was promised through the design process before awarding certification.

Among the items that helped the building to achieve LEED certification:

  • The building reduces domestic water use by 37% and industrial water use by 54%. This is achieved through a combination of low-flow fixtures, use of recycled water or closed-loop cooling systems for medical and industrial equipment and use of rainwater or the condensation from HVAC systems to water the grounds.
  • The project maximizes open space by ensuring that open space is equal to or greater than the footprint of the building and furthermore uses native plants or plants adapted to the local environment.
  • The building has an energy cost savings of 8.5%.
  • As measured by value, more than half of the building materials are sustainably sourced.
  • During construction, more than 90% of waste materials were diverted from landfills.

  • Chris Oh, senior project architect with Perkins+Will, said it took the efforts of more than 30 people, including designers, contractors, MUSC project managers and on-site construction managers, to keep the project on track to earn LEED certification.

    Scheurer credited MUSC project managers Gopi Omraju and John Sion for leading SJCH&PTWP to LEED.

    “They kept us on task and led us down the pathway to creating choices that allowed us to get to LEED, and they never swayed from that,” Scheurer said. “They and Perkins+Will did a great job of finding pragmatic solutions that were keeping in the LEED certification categories.”