SAN FRANCISCO - It’s not just new buildings that are fueling the growing sustainable or “green” building movement. Even a 140-year-old hospital can be considered environmentally friendly.

In central San Francisco, below the hills of Twin Peaks, the second-highest point in the city, sits Laguna Honda Hospital. This health care and rehabilitation facility has been serving the needs of San Francisco residents since 1866, regardless of ability to pay.

When the hospital needed to make improvements and expand its campus, hospital administrators believed the only option was a “green” or sustainable design. The Laguna Honda Hospital is working toward earning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver-level certification when construction is completed in 2009. The U.S. Green Building Council-administered program recognizes buildings that meet environmental goals.

This resident building, still under construction, will be one of three new buildings on the Laguna Honda Hospital campus. Photo courtesy of Laguna Honda Hospital.


The city of San Francisco had been planning to upgrade the hospital since the late 1980s. In 1998, the federal government issued new guidelines for public health care facilities requiring the elimination of large open wards in favor of private rooms. The historic hospital still had some open wards for patient care, which needed to be eliminated for Laguna Honda to meet new federal rules.

Larry Funk, associate administrator for the hospital, said two of the buildings on the hospital’s campus were becoming “functionally obsolete.”

The plan was to build two residential buildings for patient care. The buildings are currently under construction, including one with 780 patient beds and another with 420 beds. A “link” building is also under construction, which will connect them. This link will also include 60 beds and a rehabilitation facility.

Funk said that patients will be moved into the new resident halls in phases as construction is completed. After patients are moved, some of the current 80-year-old facilities will be demolished to make way for parking lots.

Existing buildings that are considered historical landmarks will be renovated and used for hospital administration, such as human resources and information-technology personnel.

While the city is aiming to create a more comfortable environment for hospital patients, another major goal is to be as “green” as possible. The city of San Francisco is known for being a national leader in sustainable design. In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom said that all city-funded construction projects must perform within LEED-certification guidelines.

Funk said that the hospital has been planning to earn a LEED designation before Newsom’s executive order.

“It was the environmentally responsible thing to do,” said Funk.

The new resident buildings and “link” building is being constructed near the current Laguna Honda Hospital. Photo courtesy of Laguna Honda Hospital.

Healthy hospitals

A LEED-certified hospital shouldn’t come as any surprise, Funk said. Hospitals should do more than take care of patients; they should also try to have healthier impacts on the environment, he said.

However, very few health care facilities have obtained a LEED rating. But the trend is catching on quickly. According to Funk, there are approximately 75 “green” hospital projects under construction across the United States.

The Boulder Community Foothills Hospital in Boulder, Colo., was the first U.S. hospital to earn LEED certification.

While the Boulder hospital may have beat Laguna Honda as the first LEED-certified hospital in the country, it is possible that Laguna Honda could be the first in the state of California.

The new hospital was designed by architectural firms Anshen & Allen, and Gordon H. Chong and Partners. Turner Construction is providing construction services on each of the three buildings, which will total 850,000 square feet.

Sheet metal contractors on the project include Valley Sheet Metal in South San Francisco, Calif., and S&L Payton Inc. of San Francisco.

Valley Sheet Metal is providing all of the metal siding, copings and flashings for the project. This will require the use of 436 box-corrugated panels, officials said.

Mike Payton, vice president and general manager of S&L Payton, said his company would install all of the metal roofing, expansion joints and louvers for the hospital. The roof will include more than 12,000 square feet of metal for the three buildings.

The metal roofing will play a role in the hospital’s sustainable design. Payton said that the metal roofing would be coated with a special paint that will reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it, allowing the building to remain cooler on hot days.

This artistic rendering shows what the Laguna Honda Hospital campus will look like when construction is complete in 2009.

Sustainable features

Hospital officials say Laguna Honda has several sustainable- design goals it would like to achieve. One of them is energy performance.

The hospital is striving to reduce its energy use to a level that is 30 percent below Title 24 minimums, which is California’s energy code for residential and nonresidential buildings.

Laguna Honda will attempt to generate some of its own power, but when it will be able to is unknown to hospital officials. It will be possible to install solar or fuel cells if the hospital decides to adopt the technology.

Other green-building features will include using natural daylight and ventilation, as well as an insulated shell, which will help to minimize heating and air conditioning use. HVAC systems will be energy-efficient, high-performance equipment and will use no hydrofluorocarbons.

The hospital will attempt to reduce its water consumption and create extensive recycling programs to cut down on waste.

The hospital will even develop an environmental education and demonstration center, which will provide training for employees and staff.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail