Using Building Information Modeling to Design the Nation’s First Carbon-Neutral Hospital
A strong BIM workflow and coordinated, dynamic documents made it possible for RLF’s architects, engineers and interior designers to provide timely design updates/responses while maintaining the projects aggressive schedule.
In recent years, we have witnessed the healthcare design industry reach significant milestones in sustainability. Advances in architectural and engineering systems / products have opened new realms of possibility for the A/E/C industry. At RLF, we are designing and engineering one such landmark: the Weed Army Community Hospital at Fort Irwin replacement project under contract with the United States Department of Defense (DOD). In addition to earning LEED Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council, this hospital will be the first net-zero, carbon-neutral facility of its kind in the country, generating its entire energy needs from clean power sources and renewable energy systems
This project will replace an aging healthcare facility with a full-service inpatient community hospital and outpatient clinic. We are scheduled to complete work in only 40% of the time a comparable government project would require. Several factors are enabling us to meet this accelerated timeline, including a history of work between the government and RLF, excellent responsiveness from the DOD, and the collaboration among RLF’s designers, architects and engineers. Another key factor is our use of building information modeling (BIM), a method of generating and managing data that is gaining wider usage throughout the industry. BIM allows our staff to work in a simultaneous, unified fashion and to test multiple energy-saving scenarios that allow us to achieve the carbon-neutral footprint.
Challenges and Opportunities
The BIM framework allows us to easily consider challenges and opportunities unique to this project — including its location within the arid, remote environment of the Mojave Desert. In this area, low rainfall (an average of four inches annually), compounded by the high cost of transporting water from other locations, makes it critical to develop water-conservation features.
At the onset, we recognized one of the site’s inherent benefits: its location in a geographical area that receives the highest solar radiance in the United States. With a steady decline in the price of solar energy (which fell 11% last year alone), maximizing this opportunity is a cost-effective strategy. And the DOD’s mandate to reduce dependence on fossil fuels meant we have its full support in this endeavor.