Sustainable Hospitals: Is the Investment Worth it? Or Is It Just a Fad?

By: Australian Healthcare Week

Fast-paced and working around-the-clock, hospitals are typically big guzzlers of energy and water. But until recently, interest in sustainable building initiatives in health care was lacking. Fortunately, some experts say the mind shift has definitely changed in the past 10 or so years as the business case for greener healthcare facilities becomes more appealing. 

HASSELL architect Jeff Menkens told The Fifth Estate earlier this year that taking a sustainable approach to new healthcare projects “was a tough one” to sell in the past. 

Government departments typically have tight budgets and focus closely on the initial capital costs of a new project, which can make it hard to justify green initiatives that might keep running costs down but show up in higher upfront investment.

But as green building technology has improved and industry expertise has increased, Menkens says sustainable building initiatives are becoming more palatable and are now usually “part of the dialogue” when a new healthcare facility is being built.

The Green Building Council of Australia and the New Zealand Green Building Council released a report this week (sponsored by NAB) outlining the largely unrealised benefits of sustainable healthcare facilities. 

According to GBCA chief executive officer Romilly Madew, only 1 per cent of the 2000-plus Green Star-rated buildings across Australia is in the healthcare sector, and most are in the office sector.

“If office workers are benefiting from a healthy sustainable workplace, then so should sick people and their doctors and nurses,” she says.

The report focuses on the “triple bottom line benefits” of green healthcare buildings: better patient outcomes, improved productivity and reduced energy costs. 

The challenges of designing green hospitals and healthcare facilities

Woods Bagot senior associate Anoop Menon told The Fifth Estate that health facilities are typically much more demanding on energy and water consumption because they accommodate a larger amount of heat generating equipment, have significant fresh air/ventilation requirements (depending on the physical containment level) and researchers typically operate on a 24/7 work regime.

The medical equipment also requires redundant backup and UPS systems due to the long term nature of research, which also contributes to energy consumption.

For architects designing new sustainable healthcare facilities, Menon says that among key features like optimal building orientation, enhancing daylight and views, increased energy and water conservation efficiency, efficient use of materials and resources and reduction/elimination of waste, the design of the building envelope affords one of the big opportunities to reduce energy consumption.

Aurecon’s Jackson says that despite the complexity and size of most healthcare buildings, standardised green design principles apply to all types of buildings and “the science remains the same”.

This article was originally published on the 24th January 2019 on the Fifth Estate

The topic of building, designing and operating sustainable hospitals will be further explored at the Health Facilities Design and Development Summit running at Australian Healthcare Week 2020. Experts from the healthcare sector will be debating the topic Sustainable Hospitals: Is the Investment Worth it? Or Is It Just a Fad? on Day One of the conference, with teams including: 


Eleri Carrahar, Interim Executive Director Medical Services, West Moreton Hospital and Health Service

Russell Harrison, Chief Executive Officer, Western Health


Mark Hoffman, Manager Capital Projects, Eastern Health

Marcus Gurthie, Chief Executive Officer, Mildura Private Hospital 

Stay tuned for the full agenda set to be released in October 2019. For more information about sponsorship opportunities please email