Welcome to April and to springtime in the Northern Hemisphere. To our members in Northern states and Canada, spring has always been the time when we swap out boots for flip-flops and beanies for baseball caps. More recently, though, we have seen Southern states impacted by winter weather and low temperatures almost routinely over the past few years. We have seen health care buildings impacted by conditions they were not designed to defend against (see our series at hfmmagazine.com/climate_change).
We have also witnessed our health care facilities leaders’ dedication to keeping their patients safe, often sacrificing work-life balance to manage flooding, power outages, wildfires and extreme temperatures. We are seeing a need to focus on building resilience both in terms of environmental sustainability and flexibility. Unfortunately, health care facilities managers also cannot lose focus on everything else their buildings require for safe and efficient operations.
But there is a growing number of resources to help. There have been tremendous partnerships between design professionals and construction industry partners to identify solutions for more resilient buildings. The American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) is developing educational materials and partnering with subject matter experts to aid in environmental sustainability tools and resources such as decarbonization, energy-reduction tactics and recycling solutions.
Springtime also brings Earth Day, which is recognized globally on April 22 this year. The theme is “Invest in Our Planet” and, although it is a one-day event on the calendar, we should all recognize that our efforts in reducing waste in health care, in all of its forms, should be an all-year mission. It is also a great time to reflect on accomplishments and celebrate successes. We have more to do in health care, but we have also made tremendous strides that deserve recognition.
Environmental sustainability and decarbonization can be daunting concepts, and there is no cookie-cutter approach to tackling them. The work cannot and will not be done by a single individual, facility or organization. It will take the entire health care field to pitch in and do their part to reduce our carbon footprint.