The design of hospital buildings of almost zero consumption is becoming more important in the current architecture, since it is a typology of public building that is in operation 24 hours a day and with great technological requirements, where energy saving acquires a leading role.
Both the European Strategy 2020 and the Catalan Strategy for Energy Renewal of Buildings (ECREE) propose the redirection of architecture towards a more sustainable, energy-efficient and renewable energy use to tackle climate change.
Today the building sector consumes 40% of the total energy in the European Union and is estimated to continue to grow. For this reason at CASA Solo we work in the design of health centers that minimize energy demand and boost the use of renewable energy sources.
Let’s look at the key aspects to take into account in the design of hospital buildings of almost zero consumption.
Reducing energy demand
Minimizing the energy consumption of hospitals is essential to achieve hospital buildings of almost zero consumption. In order to achieve this objective and contribute to energy saving, there is a whole series of architectural and constructive possibilities to be taken into account.
Pre-existences and solar orientation
The first aspect to be assessed when designing a hospital is its environment and orientation. After performing an analysis of the pre-existences, strategies are obtained to adapt the building to the place, as far as possible.
Of particular importance will be factors such as the slope of the site, the presence of vegetation, to propose alternatives such as the use of the thermal inertia of the land or the creation of shady and cool spaces in summer.
The orientation will also play a very important role given the wide variety of spaces that a health center presents and its different lighting requirements, from the entrance of natural light in the patients’ rooms to the impenetrability of the operating rooms and the most delicate areas.
Energy capture and storage
Hospital buildings of almost zero consumption are also characterized by the incorporation of systems of capture and storage of energy of renewable origin, such as solar or photovoltaic, wind, aerothermal, geothermal, biomass or cogeneration.
Depending on the latitude, sunshine and terrain of the site there will be more suitable some mechanisms of capture and storage of energy or others. The use of the thermal inertia of the land, the use of geothermal energy or the good constructive resolution of the building envelope are some examples that will considerably improve the energy saving of a hospital.
Thermal insulation is also a key aspect in the construction of hospital buildings of almost zero consumption, since it allows to maintain the interior temperature of the health centre consuming less energy and maximizing the efficiency of the air conditioning systems.
Depending on the construction system used for the design and execution of the hospital, a thickness and type of insulation or other will be used, in order to meet the requirements of at least the thermal comfort required by the technical code and provide users a pleasant stay with lower energy consumption.
We often find hospital buildings that have a thermal insulation lower than necessary, because they are old infrastructures or there is an aim to save on initial costs that are not substantial.
However, the choice of a good thermal insulation is a future investment that a building of the magnitude of a hospital amortizes in a few years with the energy savings it generates. This amortization will be improved with the increase in energy prices that we are already beginning to experience in Spain this 2017.
It is also important to emphasize the importance of a good technical resolution of the building, guaranteeing the continuity of the insulation throughout the enclosure to avoid thermal bridges. For this, the use of ventilated facades has been a great bet on all the projects developed by CASA Solo from the outset.
The ventilation of a hospital should also be an essential requirement to provide users a pleasant stay and to achieve hospital buildings of almost zero consumption, especially in spring and autumn, when good natural ventilation can greatly reduce the energy supply to cooling.
This ventilation should be possible in public places such as rooms, inquiries, waiting areas and circulations. In critical areas, ventilation and health safety regulations establish that the entire volume of air must be filtered and artificially moved, always with the most efficient air conditioning system.
With the aim of enhancing the natural ventilation of the building, it is necessary to take into account the strategic layout of the openings and the introduction of elements or geometries that allow the hospital to breathe, as now interior courtyards that improve the quality of the building.
The last of the key aspects to reduce the energy demand in hospital buildings of almost zero consumption is the saving of water through its different reuse options.
In order to maximize water savings, it is advisable to collect the rainwater and reuse it for irrigation of the garden areas of the hospital or for certain sanitary appliances, by means of a previous filtration.
As for gray water (sinks and showers) it is advisable to make a network separative of the black waters, to be able to reuse them for toilets, always with a previous treatment.
This simple measure can be a great saving of water and should be extended to other types of buildings where, as in hospitals, water consumption is very high.
To complement these mechanisms of water saving it is also possible to install regulation systems in the faucets of the bathrooms and toilets of the health centre, in order to minimize the daily water consumption.
Use of renewable energies
Along with the reduction of the energy demand of a hospital, it is also essential to consider the use of renewable energy in it.
Some of the most common options are photovoltaic, thermal and thermodynamic solar panels, which allow to generate electricity or heat the water of the hospital building.
Geothermal energy, coming from the earth, is also an interesting alternative to contemplate since it allows great savings over traditional systems of production of hot and cold water for the air conditioning systems of a health centre.
Its high initial investment is amortized in few years and it represents a great saving in fossil fuels.
As always, we would like to finish remembering the commitment of CASA Solo with the design of efficient sanitary spaces and respectful with the environment.
As architects, our work can contribute to improve the quality of life of patients, families and professionals, as well as energy saving and preserving the natural resources of our planet.
We assume this responsibility by investigating every day and putting at the service of our hospital clients all our experience and knowledge, together to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.