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By Johnathan Woodside, P.E. CEM., LEED AP
From the April 2024 Issue


In the evolution of healthcare infrastructure, the need for resiliency has never been more apparent. With the foresight to recognize the vulnerabilities posed by Northwest Florida’s unique climate risks, Baptist Health Care has set the standard by prioritizing resiliency in the design and construction of its new medical campus in Pensacola. This article explores five key design strategies employed at Baptist Hospital Campus that serve as a blueprint for other healthcare institutions seeking to fortify their facilities against the growing threats of extreme weather events.

Baptist Health Care Pensacola Florida, natural disasters, design strategies
Designed for resiliency, Baptist Hospital Campus includes a new 10-story, 268-bed hospital and the six story, 178,000-square-foot Bear Family Foundation Health Center. (Credit: Chad Baumer)

Understanding The Context

The state of Florida presents a multitude of climate-related challenges, including inland flooding, hurricanes and high winds, intense heat and humidity, along with water scarcity issues. Baptist Health Care’s decision to prioritize resiliency stems from the recognition that climate events can significantly disrupt essential healthcare services, potentially jeopardizing patient care and safety.

In addressing these challenges, Gresham Smith’s design team successfully paired system efficiencies with utility redundancies at Baptist Hospital Campus. This approach enables the hospital to operate easily in the wake of a storm event, providing power for both critical and non-critical systems, as well as maintaining essential services such as cooling, ventilation, potable water, and medical gases.

Strategies Employed

  1. Elevating Above the Flood Plain: One of the key design strategies adopted was elevating the base building 4 ft. above the 500-year flood plain. In a region prone to inland flooding, this elevation not only safeguards the physical structure but also allows for the uninterrupted operation of essential services, even in the face of rising waters. This elevation strategy stands as crucial measure in constructing a healthcare facility resilient enough to withstand the impacts of climate change.
  2. Hardened Building Envelope and Structural System: Recognizing the heightened risk of hurricanes with high winds, a hardened building envelope and structural system capable of withstanding Category 5 gusts were integrated. The importance of a robust structure cannot be overstated, as it not only protects the building’s occupants but also safeguards critical medical equipment and infrastructure.
  3. Redundant Power Supply and N+1 Capacity: Power outages during extreme weather events can bring healthcare facilities to a standstill, putting patient care and safety at risk. To mitigate this vulnerability, a redundant power supply and N+1 capacity for all major mechanical systems were incorporated into the design. Should a power failure occur, the facility is capable of seamlessly transitioning to emergency power, allowing for uninterrupted operation and patient care.
  4. Dedicated Gray Water System: Baptist Health Care’s commitment to resiliency includes a dedicated gray water system, which serves dedicated gray water hose bibs located throughout the facility. This system acts as a backup source for potable water, supporting water conservation efforts and enabling the facility to maintain essential water-dependent services during times of scarcity.
  5. Stormwater Collection System: Leveraging innovative solutions, a stormwater collection system that goes beyond basic drainage was implemented at the campus. Collected stormwater is stored underground beneath parking areas, subjected to filtration, and then utilized as cooling tower water. Under normal operation, all of the cooling tower makeup water is provided through reclaimed stormwater and groundwater wells, with an additional resilient backup from the municipal water source. The intent is to avoid using any potable water for cooling tower makeup unless reclaimed stormwater or well water is not available.
Baptist Health Care Pensacola Florida, natural disasters, design strategies
Rising above the storms. Safeguarding the integrity of both the structure and essential services, one of the key design strategies was elevating the base building 4 ft. above the 500-year flood plain. (Credit: Chad Baumer)

Takeaways For The Healthcare Industry

Baptist Health Care’s journey in prioritizing resiliency offers valuable lessons for the broader healthcare industry. As climate change accelerates, healthcare facilities worldwide must adapt and integrate similar strategies to ensure their ability to provide uninterrupted services. The following takeaways provide a road map for healthcare leaders looking to enhance their facilities’ resiliency:

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  1. Proactive Risk Assessment: Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment specific to the geographic location is the first step. By understanding the local climate challenges, healthcare facilities can effectively tailor their resiliency strategies.
  2. Multi-layered Resiliency Approaches: The holistic approach at Baptist Hospital Campus incorporates multiple resiliency features, from elevated building structures to redundant power supplies. Healthcare leaders should adopt a multi-layered approach, addressing various vulnerabilities to create a robust and comprehensive resiliency framework.
  3. Collaboration with Design and Engineering Experts: The success of Baptist Health Care’s resiliency initiatives underscores the importance of collaboration with design and engineering experts. Bringing together professionals with expertise in climate-resilient design ensures the facilities are equipped to face future challenges.
  4. Sustainability Integration: The incorporation of sustainability practices, such as stormwater treatment for energy efficiency and gray water systems, demonstrates that resiliency and sustainability can go hand in hand. Healthcare facilities should explore synergies between resiliency and environmental responsibility.
  5. Community Engagement and Education: As healthcare institutions take on the role of community anchors, there is a responsibility to engage and educate the local community on resiliency measures. Sharing knowledge and building awareness fosters a collective commitment to weathering the impacts of climate change.

Putting Resiliency First

By prioritizing climate resilience, healthcare facilities can not only provide continuous and reliable services for their communities but also contribute to a broader movement towards sustainability. The strategies employed by Baptist Hospital Campus serve as a bellwether for healthcare leaders as they navigate the challenges of an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Johnathan Woodside, P.E. CEM., LEED APWoodside, P.E. CEM., LEED AP (O+M), is a project executive at Gresham Smith.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at jen@groupc.com.

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