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Taking the LEED

September 1, 2007
by DAVID BUCKLEY, AIA, LEED AP and BRIAN SMYTH, AIA, LEED AP
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A profile of one campus's movement toward being “greener”

With the goal of treating people with mental illnesses having moved from institutionalization to rehabilitation in the community, the mental healthcare landscape has transformed during the past 40 years. As the profession has evolved, designers of treatment facilities have endeavored to keep pace, seeking an alternative to the isolated rooms and dark corridors of the past.

The emergence of sustainable design—green” buildings that promote healthy indoor environments while limiting natural resource consumption—represents a new common ground for architects and mental healthcare professionals. The synergy between sustainable design and the mission of behavioral healthcare organizations is clear:

  • Improved indoor air quality and greater access to natural light create an ideal healing environment.

  • Operational savings through energy efficiency and water conservation free up monies for enhanced patient and staff amenities.

  • Efforts to protect the health of the environment directly reflect and impact efforts to improve the health of people.

With the benefits of going green now widely recognized, the challenge becomes implementing a system to guide the design of sustainable facilities. To meet this challenge, the U.S. Green Building Council has created the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. LEED is a recognized benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED promotes a “whole building” approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas:

  • Sustainable site development

  • Water savings

  • Energy efficiency

  • Materials selection

  • Indoor environmental quality

The LEED rating system awards points for specific strategies integrated into the building and/or achieved outcomes. The LEED certification level is awarded based on the total score earned. Platinum is the highest designation, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified. The Southeast Regional Treatment Center (SERTC), an inpatient mental health facility in Madison, Indiana, recently achieved LEED certification.



Interior designers worked with hospital staff in selecting materials and reusing selected original furniture to give a residential, rather than institutional, feel in the “bluff” buildings. the patient activity room incorporates significant natural light and views to the outside, two components that contribute to the well-being of patients.

Interior designers worked with hospital staff in selecting materials and reusing selected original furniture to give a residential, rather than institutional, feel in the “bluff” buildings. The Patient Activity Room incorporates significant natural light and views to the outside, two components that contribute to the well-being of patients. Photos by HOK and Hedrich Blessing



Building 13 is one of two new residential facilities constructed on sertc's campus


Building 13 is one of two new residential facilities constructed on SERTC's campus.





The activities building underwent significant renovation to accommodate modern treatment demands


The Activities Building underwent significant renovation to accommodate modern treatment demands.



SERTC's 650-acre campus includes a blend of historic buildings originally constructed in 1904 and three newly constructed structures

SERTC's 650-acre campus includes a blend of historic buildings originally constructed in 1904 and three newly constructed structures.

Leadership From the Top

SERTC is situated on a 650-acre campus overlooking the Ohio River. In 2001, state officials decided that SERTC, originally built in 1904, needed to be updated to support state-of-the-art treatment and therapy for inpatients with serious mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities throughout an 18-county region. A primary goal of the project was to create an operationally efficient, functionally flexible campus that would serve the state's needs for 50 years.

Our firm, HOK, previously had designed Evansville State Hospital (another of Indiana's five psychiatric treatment centers) with a variety of sustainable elements. Chief among these was an exterior composed of autoclaved aerated concrete, a product manufactured using fly ash residue from the burning of coal in power plants. At the time, this represented the largest, most extensive use of this recycled product within an institutional facility in the United States.

Motivated by the Evansville project's success and a desire to “green” government operations, the state (under the leadership of Susan Williams, then executive director of the Indiana State Office Building Commission) mandated that SERTC be redesigned to achieve LEED certification. This leadership from the top set in motion an integrated design process from the outset and proved instrumental in meeting project goals.

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