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Green roof at new hospital is more than a cover

San Diego Union Tribune
Michelle Breier

The 11-story Palomar Medical Center West under construction on a hill high above the western edge of Escondido is installing what will be the largest green roof in Southern California.

Planting on the 1.4-acre roof over a two-story wing of the hospital started last week and is expected to be completed by Dec. 17. The roof is above the diagnostic and treatment portion of the hospital, which includes operating rooms, the emergency division and the radiology department, said Wendy Cohen, director of construction for Palomar Pomerado Health.

A green roof — a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered in vegetation — serves more than one purpose for the hospital. It contributes to energy efficiency and follows modern medical beliefs that patients heal faster while in the presence of natural light and a connection to nature.

The patient tower overlooks the 60,000-square-foot roof, designed by San Diego-based Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects.

“Patients in the tower will be looking down on nature rather than a mechanical roof”, said Frances Moore, project architect with CO Architects, which designed the hospital.

Natural light is a significant design element for the hospital, and the two-story wing in particular. From a terrace a few stories above, circular skylights can be seen across the green roof. Two large rectangles are cut into the roof, marking outside courtyards that will bring natural light into the operating suites, emergency department and radiology department.

Standing in what will be an operating suite, one can look through what will be a window through to the future courtyard.

Moore said a green roof for a hospital is unique, “to pull it into the whole concept of the building and interaction with nature”.

“Interaction with nature also benefits the staff and family that are an integral part of therapy”, she said.

During the past six months, work on the roof has included loading 850 cubic yards of engineered soil, consisting of scoria, sand and humus, and crunches under foot.

Because of the weight of the roof, the soil had to be loaded before walls below were built, Cohen said.

Thousands of native, drought-tolerant plants will cover the roof. The planting began on the slope closest to the patient tower with the installation of 3,300 biotrays. The biodegradable containers are made of coconut husk and contain five plants each.

Filling out the roof and its two slopes will be 11,500 2-inch plants, 322 4-inch plants and various types of seeds.

Long, gutter-type “drainage pods” filled with gray rocks criss-cross the roof, and eventually will be covered by plants.

Drip irrigation lies underneath the soil to nourish the plants’ roots. The green roof also will act as a filter for stormwater runoff.


Cohen said that although there are extra cost considerations with a green roof, “it was always part of the long-term plan for the hospital”.

“It was so integral to the hospital”, she said. “It was never considered an area where we would cut cost”.

Palomar Pomerado Health spokesman Andy Hoang said the green roof is more expensive than a traditional roof, but “based on our analysis we will have recovered the cost through energy and water savings in a seven-year time period”.

Hoang said the green roof cost is about $10 per square foot.

The green roof will reduce the energy requirements for the hospital because it will lower overall temperature of the building, Cohen said.

Patient rooms will have natural light but not the glare or heat reflected off a traditional roof, Cohen and Moore said.

The $956 million Palomar Medical Center West is currently the largest construction site in the United States, with about 600 workers welding, hammering, measuring, sawing and myriad other tasks.

The 11-story hospital will have a helipad and 288 rooms, with a capacity for 360 rooms. Construction is scheduled to finish in spring 2012, with the opening planned for summer.

Voters in the Palomar Pomerado Health district, which covers 850 square miles in inland North County, approved a $496 million bond for the new hospital and other district improvements in 2004.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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