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AUSTIN, TX-Dell Children’s Hospital of Central Texas made news recently when it became the first hospital in the world to receive LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council. Experts, however, say not to expect a whole slew of hospital or medical office building developers to follow in the footsteps.

“I think it’s incredible they got platinum,” says Chris Barnet, managing director and principal with Dallas-based GVA Cawley’s Healthcare Real Estate Advisory Group. “Platinum is very hard to achieve, and it’s fairly expensive.”

And it’s cost that is the driver between whether a health care real estate developer builds green into the blueprints or not. “A lot of health care projects are front-end driven by cost,” notes Derrick Evers, managing partner with Neal Richards Group, also in Dallas. “It can be an expensive proposition on the front end. If there’s little payback, it likely won’t be a consideration.”

Brian Ott, principal with the hospital’s Austin-based developer TBG Partners says adding LEED certification to a development mix can boost costs from 1% to 6%, depending on the level sought. The costs are coming down, however, he notes. “Every year, we find more materials in the industry being designed that meet sustainable concepts,” he remarks. “Something that three or four years ago might have been a premium to pay is now part of the normal buying procedure.”

What is perhaps even more remarkable is that the developers planned for the platinum level of LEED certification from the time they broke ground on the hospital in 2003. But Ott acknowledges the platinum goal required ground-up thinking and a lot of collaboration from the start.

“The ‘Greed Guide for Health Care’ wasn’t written at the time, so we had to apply a lot of the original version of the LEED guide to the project,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “It was hard to apply some of those systems to the hospital.”

For instance, there were challenges when it came to the requirement for natural light, as a certain percentage of hospital space needs to be blocked from such light, such as surgery suites and labs. “Some of those had to be moved below ground,” Ott says.

Though Dell Children’s Hospital was the first to achieve the platinum level of LEED certification, it’s not likely to lead to a slew of followers. Barnet points out that health care real estate, which is very much dollars-and-cents, may not see an immediate payback when it comes to high-level LEED certification.

This is not to say, however, that the subject isn’t under discussion. “In the physician-owned models in health care, we’re not seeing green or LEED certification being discussed,” Barnet says. “But among the large, non-profit health-care systems, they are.”

Discussion, however, won’t necessarily lead to immediate results. Evers and Barnet suggest the change to LEED may be slow, with health care developers and owners applying for some kind of certification, but not necessarily the premium levels.

Evers says his company isn’t developing any LEED-type projects for health care clients, though he is putting up green buildings for regular office clients. Meanwhile, when Barnet put the question of LEED certification to his clients and associates, the response was tentative.

“The response I got was yes, this is a topic of conversation and they’re aware of it,” he says. “It’s not always a must, though. But clients tell me that it’s starting to trend in that direction.”

Ott, in the meantime, acknowledges that he’s seen several hospitals going after basic certification and even silver certification, but none have jumped up to the platinum level. However, “LEED is just a small portion of sustainable design,” he adds. “There are other sustainable concepts people are looking at and researching. As a result, buildings we design and build today are healthier and more sustainable than they were four or five years ago.”

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