For the final meeting of this cycle of the NLA Expert Panel on Healthcare, the panellists’ focus was on the topical issue of decarbonising the health estate, and the pointed discussion covered concerns around achieving a truly zero carbon hospital of the future.
Guest speakers from Arup, Ben Ashby - Engineer and Kristian Steel – Associate, presented their recent study, ‘Global Road Map for Health Care Decarbonization’, developed in partnership with Health Care Without Harm. Building on Arup’s and HCWH’s previous award-winning collaboration, this noteworthy study further reviews the decarbonisation of the global health sector as a whole. It not only looked at the emissions from healthcare systems themselves but also at the supply chain emissions that enabled these healthcare systems.
Arup built an emission model of the global health sector that consisted of key components characterised by key steps within the roadmap to carbon neutral. From the study, it is understood that as the key aspects impacts are varied, the pace and scale of the rate that a UK system might decarbonise compared to a country such as Uganda will be very different.
The study provokes the health sector to question itself in the way certain things are done, how they can be improved enough to make a significant difference for example, low carbon transport, buildings or infrastructure. Arup are exploring how factors like these can be presented in a quantitative way to enable practitioners to start to think and explore different interventions and practice for their countries and facilities to plan a path to reach the agenda.
Although we can take key steps such as being more selective with our choice and use of materials or consider how space is greater utilised, the healthcare sector is not just a sector you can dampen demand for or easily put constraints around, especially when thinking about this in the global context where large parts of humanity still lack basic healthcare systems. Certainly, a thought-provoking study.
When asked what the appetite for uptake is in approaching the net zero agenda, the panellists discussed that we all know we need to be doing this, but that it is more how we do this in reference to the concerns of the day job. We agreed that working within the healthcare service and not addressing the pollution and emissions issues will swing back and hit the healthcare services.
The current UK National Hospital Programme from the NHSE/I is very committed to the Net Zero agenda, sustainability, and resilience and these are being brought into all the new briefing documents and teams are expected to deliver to it, noted Edith. In Sweden, Charlotte noted, the government has made it law that the contractors must submit climate calculations on completion of buildings, not only for healthcare projects but for all building types. The aim is so that builders can present the building performance and also their commitment to the net zero agenda but how it is monitored needs further confirmation.
Colin noted that the New London Plan is looking for operational carbon, but it does not specifically pick up embodied carbon. The process is very much a self-policed activity and so it perhaps is more open and realistic targets being set for their own projects.
The discussions continued around the topics of resilience and technology implementation to support the net zero carbon estate, challenges around retrofitting hospitals and if institutions could play a part in incentivising a net zero healthcare sector.