News Brief

Groups Merge to Coordinate Greening of Hospitals

Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming, Michigan, includes several patient rooms that overlook the project's 48,500-ft2 (4,500-m2) green roof. The building is expected to earn a LEED Silver rating.

Photo: ©Wayne Cable, courtesy HDR Architecture
Practice Greenhealth, a new nonprofit organization, hopes to shake up America’s healthcare industry. “We’re here to help the healthcare community develop sustainable systems,” according to communications director Eileen Secrest. “Its environmental footprint is huge, and we can make a difference.”

The organization is largely an expanded version of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), which was born in 1993 as a joint project of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Hospital Association. Funded largely by EPA, H2E focused on pollution prevention and operational improvements. Despite the program’s success, however, EPA pulled financial support in 2004. When H2E struggled without that support, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), a founding member of H2E, took over and guided the organization’s reincarnation as a Practice Greenhealth, an independent nonprofit that should eventually support itself through membership dues. HCWH provided the startup funding for Practice Greenhealth, and it continues to offer administrative support and office space. “As soon as they’re financially stable, they’ll take on more and more of these responsibilities,” said Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of HCWH.

Practice Greenhealth also absorbed two other preexisting programs: the Green Guide for Health Care and the Healthcare Clean Energy Exchange. The Green Guide, a project of HCWH and the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, was launched in 2004 as a rating system to evaluate and improve the environmental responsibility of the planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of healthcare facilities (see EBN Vol. 14, No. 1). It formed the basis of the draft LEED for Healthcare, which the U.S. Green Building Council should soon release for member ballot (see EBN Vol. 17, No. 1). The Healthcare Clean Energy Exchange was recently started by HCWH to help hospitals use reverse auctions to drive down the cost of energy, allowing them to use the savings to purchase green energy.

The organization also hopes to take on some new activities, including onsite training sessions. Many hospital sustainability coordinators “don’t have training and don’t have mentors who’ve done the same thing,” said Secrest, noting that “sustainability classes will help them get a handle on the entire job.” Practice Greenhealth is also working to convince hospitals that simply tacking environmental responsibilities onto existing job descriptions is usually insufficient. “It needs to be a full-time job,” Secrest said.

Merging H2E, the Green Guide, and the Energy Exchange “seemed like a natural confluence,” said Robin Guenther, FAIA, principal at Perkins+Will Architects. Guenther helped write the Green Guide and recently joined Practice Greenhealth’s board of directors. She hopes that, over time, the organization’s broad member base will allow it to collect extensive information on green practices in the healthcare industry, illuminating trends and opportunities for improvement. “There’s no intent for Practice Greenhealth to do broad-based public policy,” said Guenther, “but I think the need for public policy will make itself clear.”

The organization currently has about 650 members—most of which transferred over from H2E. About 90% of these are healthcare facilities, with the remainder split between businesses (which include architecture and design firms, group-purchasing organizations, and other companies) and strategic network members (which include nonprofits, associations, and government agencies). The annual membership fee ranges from $200 for the smallest nonprofits to $20,000 for the largest businesses. A hospital with 200 beds and an architecture firm with annual revenues of $20 million would each pay an annual fee of $2,500.

Practice Greenhealth has a staff of 13 and is based in Arlington, Virginia. Its board of directors remains largely the same as that of H2E. Although Practice Greenhealth was started in early 2008 with little fanfare, Gilmore Hall says the organization is planning a larger launch in the fall of 2008. For more information on greening the design and construction of healthcare facilities, see EBN Vol. 14, No. 6.

For more information:

Practice Greenhealth

Arlington, Virginia


Published August 28, 2008

Boehland, J. (2008, August 28). Groups Merge to Coordinate Greening of Hospitals. Retrieved from

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