The University of Montreal’s new teaching hospital sets a high bar for the future design of healthcare facilities. The $2 billion Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal—or CHUM, for short—is impressive in its sheer scope, scale, and complexity, but the final package is a textbook unto itself for achieving sustainability goals in a context with so many other critical design requirements. Comprised of several interconnected towers and an animated main street environment along Rue St. Denis, one of Montreal’s liveliest thoroughfares, CHUM is shaping up as a new icon in Montreal’s urban core, a gentle giant wrapped in a glistening LEED Silver package.
First, the facts: CHUM (pronounced “shoom”) is the largest public-private-partnership health center project underway in North America and the third largest in the world. The three phases of construction began in 2010 and will span the remainder of the decade. Once the second and largest phase is complete in 2016, the new CHUM will have the capacity for 750,000 outpatient visits and 65,000 emergency room visits per year. The three million-square-foot, 772-bed facility will occupy an entire city block and house a high-tech teaching and research center that includes 35 medical specialties, a conference center, and a 500-seat amphitheater.
According to Paul Landry, CHUM’s chief project officer, efficiency has been one of the core principles driving the design since its inception. The RFP for the project mandated a “40 percent reduction in energy use over the baseline,” Landry says, also noting that “the design concept has resulted in a very functional building for people circulation and material distribution as well.” Whether entering at street level or via the underground parking deck or metro station, a strategic system of escalators, elevators, tunnels, and corridors will lead patients, visitors, and staff smoothly to their destination guided by an “efficient and intuitive wayfinding system,” Landry says. Behind the scenes, automated guided vehicles (AGVs)—a Wi-Fi–powered system of robotic carts—will transport all daily-use materials. Dirty linens, biowaste, food, medicine, and other “consumables” are moved in and out of the building without clogging hallways and elevators with this utilitarian traffic. Landry is particularly pleased with CHUM’s advanced logistics, noting that it is focused on maximizing efficiency 24/7 and achieving “complete separation of clean and soiled”—one of the underlying goals of hospital design.
The design of a hospital has to prioritize the health, safety, and wellbeing of its patients above all other design considerations, for which CHUM should receive five stars. To attain LEED Silver status within the same context, however, is no small feat. The gleaming glass curtain wall by Gamma Windows and Walls, for example, is not double but triple glazed. A glass exterior, though it allows for natural light and views, can create a lot of condensation, which must be avoided in a hospital environment. Plus, humidity levels are specified at 30 to 40 percent for most parts of the hospital, meaning the HVAC system must function within a narrow range of tolerances to achieve the optimal zone for patient comfort and to minimize various pathogens that proliferate at higher or lower levels. Such high-tech HVAC acrobatics generally sacrifice energy efficiency for the sake of precision, but with a goal of 40-percent reduction in energy use, CHUM had to find a solution that offers both.
HH Angus, the electrical and mechanical engineer for the healthcare project, took the complex requirements as an opportunity to test the limits of the firm’s ingenuity. “It is a real challenge [to reduce energy consumption] with a hospital due to code and performance requirements, which on CHUM was further complicated by the size of the buildings,” says Nick Stark, vice president of knowledge management at HH Angus and the principal-in-charge of the project. “On top of this was a key project requirement of achieving a high quality indoor environment by not allowing recirculation of air between different departments.” Providing 100 percent fresh outdoor air to all spaces was the most viable alternative, but this eliminated yet another area where significant energy savings are possible.
The linchpin of the final HVAC design is something called a heat wheel. “We will recover some heat from interior sources, such as computer and electrical rooms,” Stark says, “but our silver bullet is the heat wheels.” The wheels, which are about 15 feet in diameter, have a honeycomb structure that transfers the heat and humidity from the air leaving the building and puts it back into the fresh air coming in, greatly reducing heating costs—and energy consumption—in the process. In Montreal’s frigid winters, CHUM’s interior climate will be as fresh as spring.
Additional energy-saving features are tucked into every fold of the CHUM complex, from its subterranean parking areas to the roof on the 20th story. “The new CHUM is a patient-centered facility that connects directly to major public transportation systems,” Landry says, adding that “access and storage for up to 250 bicycles was also part of the architects’ transportation vision for the center and a focus on LEED credits.” When they need a bit of fresh air, patients, staff, students, and visitors will have access to rooftop gardens overlooking the city, designed with medicinal herbs historically used in France, a deliberate nod to the green roots of healthcare.