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Has the “Greta Thunberg Effect” hit the hospital sector?

Growing concern about the climate has seen a four-fold increase in carbon off-setting over the past 18 months – are hospitals seeing a “Greta effect” too?

Healthcare isn’t normally associated with greenhouse emissions, but it produces more emissions than either aviation or shipping, in effect building a rod for its own back with the long-term health implications of poor air quality and a more volatile climate ever-clearer.

Regulators seem to have cottoned on to this contradiction. National authorities in the UK and US are starting to require energy-efficiency accreditation for new-build hospital licences – BREEAM in the UK and LEED everywhere else – but operators say enforcement depends on regions. Yet the market itself is driving change, a UK source claims:

“You get your extra construction costs back on the good PR. Patients see it’s a more carbon-efficient hospital that is trying to protect the local environment and are genuinely impressed. And when the insurers put you on their list of providers, BREEAM Excellent ones now go to the top of the pile.”

But elsewhere, it’s little more than a pat on the back. A GCC-based hospital developer: “We’re going for LEED Gold (one below the highest rank, Platinum) but unfortunately insurers and authorities don’t treat it any differently. Since our competitors aren’t going the same way, it’s just an additional cost for us. We’re proud to do it but have no financial incentive yet and we’re hoping others follow and governments support the initiatives in future.”

At first glance, the private sector is punching above its weight. Turkish private hospital group Memorial Healthcare has one of Europe’s only two LEED Platinum-certified hospitals (the other is a public facility in Spain) while there are no more than a handful of BREEAM Excellent inpatient facilities in the UK, two of which belong to private operator One Healthcare, which has made it a strategic priority. But it’s much easier as a private operator to pick-and-choose the size and scope of your hospital, making it easier to achieve Excellent.

We will be writing a more in-depth piece in the next few weeks on the costs-benefit balance of going green, where it is happening and navigating the accreditation process.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to David Farbrother or call 0207 183 3779.