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A look into how the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) guidelines are affecting hospital design and the upkeep of hospitals.

The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has laid down certain parameters and criteria which look into the effective management of resources and the overall aesthetic and hygienic conditions of hospitals. In a country overrun by poor quality infrastructure, the IGBC not only heralds a better design language but also ensures the principles of sustainability and eco-friendliness are applied on a larger scale.

Getting an IGBC certificate isn’t a hard process. Yes, there may be a few layers of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to it but its impact far outweighs the process. Each hospital is graded on particular criterion based on the guidelines of the IGBC. The sum total of the score within each criteria is how each hospital is scored for the IGBC certification.

According to Janhavi Bhavsar, Project Architect, HOSMAC, the IGBC certificate is a welcome relief in India’s healthcare industry. “Once you get the IGBC certificate, there are a lot of government facilities and government subsidies that are available and which can be availed. Even in terms of procuring investments, large companies and particularly international clients, are more willing to invest in commercial projects which have a golden or platinum level of IGBC certification.” she says.

So what design changes can be made to have a better IGBC green score?

“There are a lot of design elements that get altered while following the IGBC guidelines. Natural ventilation and natural lighting are key elements in raising the overall score of the hospital. In case a facade faces the hot sun then the windows can be glazed to prevent the harmful direct sunlight to come in. Another important design element is spacing and ventilation. Opening up more space and having lesser cramped areas contribute greatly to the overall IGBC score,” adds Janhavi.

She also says, “Figures state that hospitals consume the most energy among the commercial sector; it’s a place where electricity must be available 24x7, and cutting off the energy supply can have a critical effect on the functionality of the hospital in emergency situations which in turn will have a negative effect on the health of the individuals at these hospitals. In terms of lighting, using low cost LED lights is a very big boon. Metering, a technique by which one figures out how much energy is consumed by which department, helps highlight which areas of the hospitals need to be scrutinized thoroughly. Maintenance and upkeep of instruments and equipment ensures they have a longer use period and makes them more energy efficient.”

What are the pros and cons of getting an IGBC certification?

The biggest drawback in setting up an IGBC certified green building is the cost of building. The initial cost for an IGBC certified green building is higher than that of a normal hospital. However, much like a solar heater, over a course of 5-10 years, the amount that is being saved on unnecessary expenditure and energy management makes it a more viable long-term solution. In addition, Janhavi says “There’s nothing fancy that is being done or being proposed while making an IGBC certified green building. The points which contribute to the overall score can be achieved from localized technology and labour anywhere in the country. Changing our mentalities is essential. Quite a few investors look only at the initial cost and the lack of foresight has a negative effect on the overall agenda of hospitals, which is, to ensure quality health care is provided to the patients.”

On the other hand, the pros massively outweigh the cons. Besides providing a more cleaner and sustainable source of health care, hospitals which are certified under the IGBC green code get various aids and benefits from the government. They are also involved in active conservation of water resources and energy resources, thereby reducing the stress on, and demand for these valuable resources. The IGBC certification also looks at the building material, site selection, planning and innovation in green designs, which not only promotes the sustenance and effective resource management of that one building, but also does its part in promoting the greater social good

What is the future of the IGBC Green certificate and what is its impact on hospitals today?

Hospitals are under no compulsion to have an IGBC certificate and even having an IGBC certificate means little when there’s a lack of conscious initiative to improve the environment from society. “Personally, I feel that the IGBC has become a business industry in itself. The certification is more for show and most builders care about following the bare minimum of rules as opposed to actually putting in some thought into the environment around them.” says Janhavi. “Although this might not be ideal, those who follow these guidelines are already playing a part in the betterment of the world around by taking energy efficiency, the green quotient and general maintenance and well-being of the institution seriously.” she concludes.

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