White, green, and growing at Humber River Regional Hospital

The snow won’t be falling in June, we hope.

But at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH) a portion of the roof will be the perfect shade of white.

“We are really excited to be one of the first hospitals in Toronto to be trialing this type of ‘green’ initiative for our new hospital,” says Lorie Pella, Co-Chair of Humber River’s Green Committee. “A white, reflective roof is one of the most innovative design techniques. Combine that with Humber River’s plan to use green roof technology and our new hospital is likely to have the most environmentally-friendly roof design for a building of its size in Canada,” he adds.

Turning Healthcare ‘green’ has always been a priority for Humber River. As the hospital looks to the future, their commitment to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint remains constant. No one feels more strongly about that than Rueben Devlin, Humber River’s President and Chief Executive Officer, who is working closely with the hospital’s Green Committee.

“Humber River is in the process of planning Ontario’s first digital hospital and right now we are trialing many ‘green’ initiatives in our existing buildings to see if they will be a good fit for our new facility,” explains Devlin, who was the keynote speaker at the Turning Healthcare Green symposium last November. “It is my vision to not only have a state-of-the-art hospital that meets the needs of our patients and their families; but, to ensure that we also have the greenest building possible.”

In June, Humber River will be installing a white roof on approximately 11,500 square feet of its Finch Avenue site. Unlike traditional roofs – as much as 40 degrees hotter than white roofs – white roofs do not convert sunlight into heat but reflect the sunlight back into the atmosphere.  This reduces the air conditioning requirements within the building itself and decreases the operating costs for the hospital.

And while Devlin and the HRRH Green Committee are excited about a new white roof, it’s not the only ‘green’ initiative they are focusing on.

“We were the first hospital in Ontario to install high velocity air hand dryers in our main public areas,” notes Brad Achtenberg, who works alongside Pella as Co-Chair of Humber River’s Green Committee. “The dryers have hepa filters that reduce the amount of germs and bacteria being blown onto people’s hands, so infection doesn’t spread as easily. These dryers also require no heating element which helps the hospital to reduce electricity every day,” he says.

Recently, Humber River also put insulated grey jackets on steam valves to reduce heat loss and save gas. Just this one initiative has reduced the hospital’s natural gas consumption by 400,000 cubic metres annually. That’s enough natural gas to supply 160 homes.

In the middle of January, Humber River installed a new Medical Vacuum System (also referred to as suction equipment used in the operating room and in patient rooms) at their Church street site. The new system is air cooled instead of water cooled and in addition to electrical savings is helping Humber River save almost 8 million litres of water each year.

There are so many examples of how Humber River’s commitment to being ‘green’ is helping the hospital. Not only is the hospital saving operational dollars, they are also receiving energy rebate cheques from the City of Toronto and Enbridge. Humber River was also recognized by the Ontario Health Association (OHA) for their “outstanding contribution in reducing health care’s environmental impact.”

“Today, Humber River is leading the way in hospital environmental strategies for existing buildings,” notes Devlin proudly. “We have also received many awards for our environmental initiatives. What began as a few small ideas – installing energy efficient lighting and low-flow toilets – has now turned into a culture that we are building on every day,” he says.

“Since 2001, Humber River has reduced water use by an average of 96,000 litres per day,” says Pella. “Savings like this are allowing us to put more money into patient care areas, ensuring that we are not only meeting but exceeding the needs and expectations of those who matter most to us: our patients and their families,” he adds.

As Humber River looks toward an exciting future, including a new green and digital building set for 2014, its staff, physicians and volunteers will continue to rely on the excellent leadership of Devlin and Humber River’s Green Committee.

“Currently planning calls for at least fifty per cent of our new hospital roof to be sustainable,” says Pella. “Everyone benefits by going green; and Humber River remains committed to that philosophy today and for the future.”