General Sam Would Be Extremely Proud Of His Sustainable Namesake And Her Green World Class Medical Center
Just outside of downtown Houston is home to the world’s largest medical complex the Texas Medical Center (TMC), a campus encompassing a cluster of 42 university-affiliated schools, hospitals and clinics. One of which is TIRR Memorial Hermann the one U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a bullet through her brain, was transferred this week.
Houston, Texas is built on the coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico, only 43 feet (13.1 meters) above sea level, and with four major bayous passing through the city, it has the moniker of “The Bayou City”. Add to this, 175 years of unrelenting urban sprawl has made flooding a recurring problem. With that in mind, starting nearly two decades ago the Texas Medical Center started earnestly researching avenues for storm water management.
Since then, searching for the solution to this one problem has morphed into multi-faceted remedies for at least three problems, especially over the last decade. Two are environmental; flooding and cooling (which directly relates to energy use), and the third is holistic (for the treatment of patients’ spirit during hospital/clinical treatment).
In June 2004, the new sustainable UT School of Nursing was completed with innovative use of natural daylight, new techniques in window glazing and sun control devices, an under-floor air distribution system, and individualized temperature controls are all integrated into the design. Water-recovery tanks and troughs will collect rainwater from the roof and sides of the building to make the facility largely self-sufficient for the estimated 42,000 gallons it will use each month for irrigation and toilet flushing. The building is even designed to accommodate a future on-site waste treatment unit targeting zero discharge to City sewer systems, and a roof-mounted photovoltaic system for on-site power generation.
In 2005 the TMC organization released it’s Design Guidelines for Stormwater Management for the development of a site and their relationship to storm water management and natural drainage systems by maintaining or restoring the site’s natural (pre-development) capacity to manage storm water.
1 Comprehensive Site Design
2 Construction Management
3 Alternative Landscaping Strategies
4 Alternative Paving Systems
5 Bio retention Systems
6 Surface Detention Basins
7 Underground Detention Systems
8 Parking Lots and Parking Structures
9 Green Roof Cover
10 Active Flood Protection
11 Passive Flood Protection
12 Utilities Protection
It is the expectation of the Texas Medical Center that member institutions take the necessary steps to improve the effectiveness of storm water management on their sites and stressing the fact that addition to attenuating flood waters, a sustainable approach helps to prevent increases in flood or water pollution risk downstream.
The 5,500-square foot green roof at the University of Texas School of Public Health building is one of the first in Houston to completely replace the conventional toppings of gravel, shingles or tile with the cooling, water absorbing and pollution filtering properties of green plants. The primary benefit of the green roof is to shield the underlying membrane from harsh sun and heat. The plants are growing on a substrate placed on the roof, an engineering challenge since weight of wet soil 4 to 6 inches in depth will vary from 20 to 30 pounds per square foot, depending on the amount of organic matter. It was observed that when the rooftop temperature was 101 degrees, temperatures under the growing medium averaged 70 degrees. Studies have shown that a 4 inch thick layer of relatively dry growing medium can absorb an inch of rain before the water runs off the roof.
Just a few blocks down from the TMC is the offices of Intexure Architects, a sustainable architectual firm that took on a project to transform the top of an underutilized parking garage into a tranquil oasis and meditative garden within the TMC. As the photos show, the distinct areas form outdoor rooms for gathering or individual contemplation. The space is used frequently by those undergoing medical treatment for finding quiet respite amidst the noise and haste. Not only reduce storm water runoff, it also reduces solar heat gain, provides air purification in a natural habitat.
The 21-acre site of the former Nabisco bakery was purchased by the TMC and was converted into a facility for laboratory space, research purposes, classrooms and office space. The 51-year old building was renovated and reused, a critical first step in resource conservation. Sustainable design components include the use of native plantings and extensive landscaping. This one I just had to add to the article because it is good to hear something sustainably good become of a place that had early olfactory memories for me – when it was a bakery, the smell that use to permeate that part of the city would make an infant’s mouth water…. Just sayin’…….