The greening of a hospital

By Donna Harris

Over the years, studies have shown an undeniable link between the environment and human health. That understanding was a critical factor in William Osler Health System’s (Osler) decision-making when designing the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness in Brampton. Today, the outpatient facility, which opened in 2016, is among the most energy efficient and sustainable health care facilities in Canada.

“From concept to completion our goal was to minimize our carbon footprint and contribute to the health and wellness of our workforce and community,” says John Marshman, Executive Director of Facilities Operations, William Osler Health System. “We’ve been highly successful, thanks to the early discussions we had with our partners during the planning and design phases, and our own relentless focus on sustainability.”

Peel Memorial’s approach to health care is indicative of a growing shift in thinking from sickness to health, wellness and prevention of illness and chronic disease. Its outpatient health care services prioritize the unique needs of seniors, women and children, and people living with mental health issues and chronic conditions, and empower them to take a proactive role in managing their own health. With that as its mandate, Osler was adamant that the building reflect its comprehensive commitment to wellness and make the most efficient use of natural resources.

Today, at the heart of that commitment are highly efficient systems to manage heating and cooling, lighting, water use and air flow and a highly-skilled facilities team.


Fostering sustainability and energy efficiency in health care

Peel Memorial added 600,000 square feet to Osler’s physical footprint (which includes Brampton Civic Hospital and Etobicoke General Hospital) while reducing its energy intensity by an impressive 30 per cent.

“We integrated sustainable design principles into all facets of the building’s infrastructure including HVAC systems, domestic water systems, lighting, the building envelope and materials,” says Marshman. “Our goal from the outset was to be significantly more efficient than the international standard.”

The prime focus of its energy efficient operations is Peel Memorial’s central plant, which has been instrumental in supporting Osler to reduce both energy consumption and the facility’s carbon footprint. It features three heat recovery chillers and a geothermal field that taps into the natural heating and cooling properties of the earth via 100 wells that reach about 600 feet below the building. Any heat rejected by the building throughout the summer is stored in the ground through a geo-thermal loop and used to heat the facility in the winter. More traditional condensing boilers are only used on excessively cold days.

Domestic hot water for the building is generated by the heat recovery chillers that draw heat from the building, and then from the geothermal field. The primary source of cooling for the facility is drawn from the free chilled water in the heat recovery chillers, with the remainder sourced from high efficiency magnetic bearing chillers.

“Another key success factor in our energy efficiency efforts has been our air handling systems which use energy recovery ventilation (ERV) and are oversized to minimize air velocity and fan energy,” says Marshman. Peel Memorial also uses a dedicated outdoor air system with zone level control and CO2 sensors that only ventilate rooms when they are occupied.

With a focus on reducing costs and conserving energy, the facility has been fitted throughout with energy-efficient LED light fixtures, using occupancy sensors to ensure rooms are only lit when being used. Double-glazed windows allow the sun’s natural light to filter into high traffic areas like the lobby and hallway corridors, while automated sun shades raise and lower during daylight hours, to minimize heat gain.

Among the facility’s great successes has been in its ability to minimize water consumption. Peel Memorial features energy-efficient low-flow plumbing fixtures that reduce water consumption by as much as 41 per cent. Osler has also been able to reduce water usage for landscape care and maintenance by 50 percent through using drought-tolerant and native species plants in its outdoor spaces, including the open air courtyards located within the building.

An integrated energy metering system helps Marshman’s team manage the building’s performance.

“A lot of thought went into planning the systems that would support an energy efficient and sustainable outpatient facility,” says Marshman. “But, education is also key, both for our operators to ensure these complex systems operate in an energy efficient manner, and for our staff, physicians, volunteers, visitors and patients to ensure they are conscious of efficiency and sustainability as they utilize the facility in an energy efficient manner.”

Contributing to community wellness

Osler has created a facility that contributes to community and workplace wellness, not only through the services Peel Memorial provides, but also through its efforts to minimize its carbon footprint on the environment. Evidence of this can be seen from the expansive outdoor green spaces, walkways and cycling paths that connect the facility with the surrounding community to the warm and welcoming physical spaces within the building.

Peel Memorial was awarded LEED Gold certification by the Canada Green Building Council reflecting its status as a high performing ‘green’ building. It’s anticipated that any further development of the surrounding community will be positively influenced by Peel Memorial’s focus on sustainability.

Peel Memorial was also recently awarded the 2020 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Technology Award for Healthcare Facilities worldwide.

“We’re proud of our efforts to date to positively impact the health and well-being of the community through sustainable practices and respect for the environment,” says Marshman. “And we will continue to progressively advance those efforts at all Osler facilities in the coming years.”


Donna Harris is Manager, Public Relations and Digital Media at William Osler Health System.