Published on April 21, 2022

Vision Northland project puts sustainability and energy efficiency first

At Essentia Health, we know that the health and wellness of our patients and communities is deeply impacted by the quality of our natural environment. That is why the Vision Northland project was designed with sustainability and efficiency as a top priority.

During the planning process, several green-initiative benchmarks were identified, and we’re proud to be reaching some of them well before construction is complete. Focus areas include ecology, water, energy, wellness resources and resilient designs to meet changes in function and environmental conditions.

“We know there is a growing need to protect our climate and our environment, and this project does just that,” said Jon Niksich, Essentia’s East Market facilities director. “We have ambitious goals for this building to be state-of-the-art and we’re proud of what has been done so far and what is still to come to ensure we respect the environment of our community.”

Vision Northland Highlights include:

Efficiency: Energy efficiency is 26% better than the national standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Minnesota Energy Code.

The building has a heat-recovery chiller that produces hot water as a byproduct of cooling spaces. We will take the waste heat and use it to heat other areas. A hospital requires heating and cooling year-round, which makes a heat-recovery chiller extremely effective.

High-efficiency toilets, sinks and showers mean water use will be 20% more efficient than the baseline established by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a green-building certification program.

All lighting fixtures will use energy-saving LED light bulbs; automatic lights will turn on and off based on a room’s occupancy; heating and cooling systems are designed to monitor energy use and adjust accordingly; and more.

Reducing waste: We are recycling 75% of our demolition materials in terms of weight. We will recycle all steel, concrete and asphalt. We are removing any materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet tiles, that can be reused in our existing buildings or returned to manufacturers.

We are also working with our environmental services team to make sure the new facility has the space and equipment necessary to recycle as much as possible from our waste stream.

Supporting local energy: Essentia is also helping our two energy partners, Duluth Energy Systems and Minnesota Power, reach their own sustainability goals. We will be using the city’s steam plant to heat the new hospital and its hot water. By engaging in this partnership, we are helping the city reduce its carbon footprint and achieve its own green goals as outlined in the “Imagine Duluth 2035” plan.

We are working with Minnesota Power to ensure we are incorporating energy-efficient devices to reduce our strain on the local power grid.

Bird migration and light pollution: Fritted glass will help avoid bird strikes. The fritting pattern breaks up the reflectivity of the glass to alert birds to its presence. People on the inside can see out, while birds see it more as a wall.

Evening and night lighting are being designed to reduce skyglow and light trespass. According to the Bird-Safe Building Guidelines issued by Audubon Minnesota, reducing interior, exterior and site lighting has been proven effective at limiting nighttime migratory bird collisions and mortality.

Additionally, our lighting designs meet the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) standards. To address public concerns regarding light pollution and the environmental impact of lighting design, the design team is following guidelines and codes from the city of Duluth, ASHRAE, LEED and the International Dark Sky Association. This includes using controls to dim lights between midnight and 5 a.m.

Green space and transportation: We plan to have two e-charging stations for vehicles on campus. We are also working with the Duluth Transit Authority to create new bus stops that will make it easier for patients, visitors and staff to access our buildings. Essentia also offers staff reduced prices on bus passes plus other incentives to encourage alternative methods of transportation to and from work, such as biking, walking and carpooling

Improving the environment could not be possible without adding green spaces. That’s why we have incorporated a rooftop garden across the street from Lake Superior. This provides visitors with a restful space to connect with nature while they heal or serve patients and families. There are also outside seating areas with stunning views of Lake Superior.

“We are driven to serve our patients to the best of our abilities, and that starts with ensuring they feel comfortable, relaxed and have a sense of privacy,” said Dan Cebelinski, Essentia’s director of facilities. “Many of these amenities are not only good for our environment but our patients as well, and allow us to enhance the care we provide in a community we are privileged to serve.”