St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, is taking advantage of upcoming construction projects to improve building performance, facilitate more efficient processes, and help it weather the current economic environment. Both the hospital’s bottom line and patient satisfaction are expected to benefit as a result. “There is constant pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” says Greg Stading, director of facilities at St. John’s. “We consider these strategic capital investments. They’re absolutely critical to our long-term viability.”

The first phase of construction includes a new inpatient surgical facility and renovations to a 1930s-era patient tower. Construction of both projects will be completed in March 2014. The project will involve the consolidation of the hospital’s sterilization functions into a central location in the surgical facility and the installation of a plasma-displacement sterilization system that is friendlier to the environment than the ethylene-oxide system currently in place, which releases gases into the atmosphere. Not all instruments can be sterilized in the plasma-displacement system, but the hospital eventually hopes to eliminate its reliance on ethylene oxide. This phase will also include equipment upgrades, but some of the old equipment still functions well, and the hospital will send those items to Mission Outreach, where it will be reused in disadvantaged areas.

Conserving human resources is another important construction goal. The new surgical center will feature the same number of operating rooms, but the rooms and other support spaces will be larger, facilitating more efficient patient transport and allowing for a larger surgical caseload. “The new setup increases our throughput capacity,” Stading says. “A lot of thought was given to physical layout.”

Patient satisfaction, of course, is one of the most important considerations in modern health care. “That’s a large part of the driving force behind the renovations,” Stading says. The number of private rooms in the patient tower will increase from 20 to 32, and incorporating larger windows in those rooms also will improve the patient experience.

Both projects feature all of the elements expected in modern green construction. New T8 lighting fixtures will be installed, and a white rubber service roof on the surgical facility will reflect many of the sun’s rays, reducing solar heat gain. The new dual-flush toilets will come with stickers offering instructions on how to use them, and those stickers will be located throughout the new spaces, which will feature low-VOC flooring and paints. More efficient air-handling systems are also expected to reduce energy consumption.

The focus on sustainability is not merely cost-effective; it helps fulfill the hospital’s mission. The mission is set by the hospital’s sponsoring organization, The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, which emphasizes proper stewardship of the Earth’s resources. In the upcoming expansion and renovation, the hospital accomplishes this and more.