Up We Go: Building on an Environmental Heritage

Tucson Medical Center has a long history of embracing the environment, from the 1920s when the founders of the Desert Sanatorium chose this warm, dry desert setting as the spot to treat tuberculosis patients.

To this day, on the same sun-baked site, TMC has 28 open air patios for patients and families to enjoy, as part of TMC’s healing surroundings.

That same care is reflected in the development of the new four-story TMC Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower, where patients and families will still see the desert on display outside the window. 

But more than the aesthetic appeal, TMC has made the conscious decision to incorporate sustainable and innovative design features in the new building, which was designed to earn the federal Energy Star rating.  The designation acknowledges that the building will be more energy efficient than 75 percent of hospitals nationwide 

It makes smart business sense, too. The measures will reduce TMC’s energy costs by approximately $311,000 per year, which means the hospital will recoup the additional investment in energy efficiency within five years.

Among the features: 

  • Insulated high performance windows will reduce energy costs and keep the window surface temperature closer to the room temperature. This allows us to bring in more light and connect with the outdoors to improve patient outcomes.
  •  Passive solar design will protect windows, which are set deeper into the building and use shade structures to protect them from summer sun.
  •  Several types of high efficiency interior lighting, including longer-lasting LED technology, will minimize energy use while maintaining the proper lighting required for healthcare functions.
  • Air flow settings will be automatically varied to minimize energy use of the air conditioning systems while maintaining proper space temperatures and humidity levels.  For example, the patient rooms were designed to operate with a high level of efficiency while improving the healing environment with 100% fresh air to the patient room floor of the addition.
  • Occupancy sensors will be adjusted for work schedules in areas without 24 hour occupancy, allowing for reduced heating and cooling during unoccupied periods.
  •  Low flow plumbing fixtures, sensor faucets, and dual flush valves will be provided in all public areas.

TMC’s focus on sustainability gained momentum three years ago with the launching of a “green initiative” that has led to a 50 percent reduction in paper usage and notable reductions in landfill waste and water usage. TMC’s first solar project, being installed on the roof of the existing Power Plant, will soon supplement the hot water needed for hospital operations.

“It’s important as a community hospital that we protect this region that we all love so much, and we are proud that our new facility can contribute in meaningful ways to supporting a strong ecological ethic,” said Richard Prevallet, vice president, Facilities and Construction.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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