The crowning touch of Shore Medical Center's Surgical Pavilion, which opened in 2011, is its environmentally friendly green roof - a 1,200-square-foot garden.

The green roof helped the new 138,000-square-foot expansion - largest ever for Shore Medical - attain LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, an honor unusual for a hospital. Other design elements crucial to the award include a water-saving system, use of recycled and regional building materials, and enhanced refrigeration management.

Bob Robertson, the medical center's administrative director of logistics, said the green roof is a large container garden with varying soil depth of 2 to 3 feet. Plantings include sedum, grasses and low-growing annuals, and were done in partnership with the Somers Point Green Thumb Garden Club.

Robertson, 50, of Vineland, was development liaison on the pavilion project. He said the green roof confers three big advantages:

• Keeping the building cooler - "That extends the life of our heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems," he said.

• Reducing storm water runoff - "With a green roof, the rain water is stored, taken into the plants and returned to the atmosphere through evaporation," Robertson said. "The garden retains 70 to 90 percent of precipitation in summer, and can hold 4 to 6 inches of rain water."

• Prolonging the life of the roof - "Instead of a roof just exposed to the elements, it's protected by the garden and we'll get more years out of it," he said. A leak detection system beneath the garden will pinpoint a leak, should one occur, to minimize disturbing the garden during repair.

The green roof also provides a pleasant open space adjacent to the medical center's community room and its board room.

Silver certification is the second of four levels of LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The 2011 Hospital Energy Management Survey, by the American Hospital Association, found that not quite one in five U.S. hospitals were attempting to meet LEED standards in their new construction.

Robertson said attaining Silver LEED status cost more, but will save on energy and building maintenance over time.

There is plenty of room for such environmental improvement in the health-care industry, which until relatively recently had the most energy-intensive buildings among those tracked by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The administration's U.S. Commercial Buildings Energy Intensity Survey in 1992 found that health care used the most energy - 236,000 BTUs per square foot. That was well above the average for buildings in all industries of 83,000 BTUs.

The next survey in 1995 found that food service had displaced health care as most energy intensive industry, with 244,000 BTUs per square foot, although health-care use rose to 239,000 BTUs.

By the next and most recent survey in 2003, however, the health-care industry had made substantial progress in reducing its energy consumption, reducing it to 187,000 BTUs per square foot. That still left it well above the average for all industries of 90,000 BTUs, but dropped it into third place behind food sales as well as food service.

Robertson said hospitals by their nature are major energy consumers, running 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and needing to maintain temperatures at precise levels. That's one reason why LEED certification remains uncommon for them.

In the absence of attempting to meet high LEED standards, a majority of hospitals are making improvements such as using high-efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment (51 percent) and nearly a third are retrofitting more efficient lighting and building controls, the Hospital Energy Management Survey found.

Contact Kevin Post:

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