Sustainability FAQs

Will you seek LEED certification on your new medical facility? 

Essentia Health is creating specific goals on sustainability for our Vision Northland project. We are drawing from a variety of certification programs, including LEED, WELL, Fitwel, RELi, LBC, SITES and Reset, to create a customized approach. We will incorporate criteria that best align with our mission – We are called to make a healthy difference in people’s lives -- and our values, particularly stewardship. We're working with our architects and an internal sustainability committee to guide our decisions and set benchmarks. We are looking at focus areas such as community, ecology, water, energy, wellness, resources and resilient design to meet changes in function and conditions. We plan to share our efforts with our staff and the community when final decisions are made.

What are you doing to make the Vision Northland building bird-friendly? 

We know Duluth is a major bird migration route and we recognize the dangers that glass buildings and lighting pose to birds. We plan to work with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory on a bird mortality study so we can help advance the knowledge around glass buildings, which are becoming more popular.

We are committed to using fritted glass and window blinds to help avoid bird strikes. It’s possible to make glass visible to birds while keeping it transparent enough for humans. Our architects are using fritting to create a pattern that breaks up the reflectivity of the glass and alerts birds to its presence. People on the inside can see through the glass but birds outside see it as a wall. We’re also talking with local birding experts and organizations, such Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory to incorporate best practices.

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 reducing nighttime migratory bird collisions and mortality.

What are you doing to avoid light pollution, especially at night?

We recognize the need to use lighting designs that address important community and environmental concerns as well as the safety and security of patients, staff and neighbors. Our designs meet standards set by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and local building codes. To address public concerns on light pollution and the environmental impact of the lighting design, the design team is using guidelines and codes from multiple sources including the City of Duluth, ASHRAE, LEED, and the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

We are committed to using site luminaires with a CCT of 2700K and minimum color rendering index (CRI) of 80. We are analyzing using lower luminaire limits while maintaining security. We’ll also have controls to dim lights between midnight and 5 a.m.

What are you doing to make your new building more energy efficient? 

Our new medical facility will save $5 million a year in energy and maintenance costs and decrease our carbon footprint. The building’s energy efficiency will be 10 percent better than the national standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Minnesota Energy Code. Key features are a heat recovery chiller, a building automation system (BAS) and optimizing the control system.

What are you doing to reduce heating costs? 

The building has a heat recovery chiller that produces hot water as a by-product of cooling spaces.  It’s similar to a refrigerator that cools to 40 degrees inside but the back of the puts off significant heat. 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.

Did you consider solar or geothermal power?

With a helipad and a potential rooftop garden, there is not room on the building’s roof for solar panels. The location and geology of the site made geothermal wells too costly to consider.

What are you doing to make your new building use less water? 

We are installing low-flow plumbing fixtures where possible to reduce water usage. The standard fixtures - toilets, showers and faucets – will be 20 percent more efficient that baseline standards set by LEED V4. We also are looking at equipment that uses less water or no water for cooling.  

What are you doing to reduce waste?

Construction waste is being recycled where possible and we are targeting 75% by weight for recycling. Contractors identified materials that could be reused or returned to manufacturers. We’re also looking at our building design with our Environmental Services team to make sure our new facility has the space and equipment needed to recycle as much as possible from our waste stream.

Are you looking at the life cycle of materials that you're using in your new building? 

Yes, we’re looking at life cycle as move forward with design and select materials. We’re also looking at other aspects, such as the recycled content of materials.

What are your plans for demolition materials? 

We plan to recycle 75 percent of our demolition materials in terms of weight. We’ll recycle all steel, concrete and asphalt. We’re removing any materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet tiles, that can be reused in our existing buildings or returned to manufacturers before demolition begins.

What are you doing to protect views of Lake Superior?

Our architects, EwingCole, designed the building and orientated it on the site to protect views of Lake Superior. Their renderings show the impact on views from different street views. The new building, which runs perpendicular to the shoreline, will actually reduce the amount of view obstruction compared to the current St. Mary’s Medical Center, which runs parallel to the shoreline.

Plastics are a big environmental concern. Is there a way to make recycling plastics easier in the new facility? 

Vision Northland has a Sustainability Committee working on a number of issues, including recycling. We also have a Healthy Food Committee working with Nutrition Services that’s looking at plastics like straws, plastic bags and food packaging. We’re trying other options, like paper straws and paper bags. Health care is a big user of plastics so it’s a big issue to work on.

Will you have green spaces, like your current wellness garden or a meditation garden? 

Green space is a priority in our planning. We want to improve the environment in our neighborhood.

Will you have e-charging stations for vehicles in the new facility? 

We plan to have two e-charging stations, but we haven’t decided where they will go.

Are you promoting the use of the local transit system? 

We are working with the Duluth Transit Authority to create new bus stops on our downtown medical campus that make it easy for patients, visitors and staff to access our buildings. We’re also encouraging our staff to become bus commuters by offering reduced prices on monthly bus pass in our hospital gift shops.

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