The 2022 Healthcare Design Conference + Expo will be held Oct. 8-11 in San Antonio. The annual event will offer a variety of keynote and breakout sessions on a range of topics.

Healthcare Design is previewing some of the upcoming educational sessions in a series of Q+As with speakers, sharing what they plan to discuss and key takeaways they plan to offer attendees.

Session: “E32- Enhance Energy Performance with Net Zero Design.”

Speakers: Jack Nelson, Partner, CMTA, Inc.; Kevin Wyrsch, Principal, Isgenuity; Cory Pouliot, Senior Director, Facilities Operations, Boston Medical Center; and Sarah Lueck, Senior Associate, Isgenuity.

Using  Boston Medical Center’s new behavioral healthcare facility as a case study, this session will describe the process for achieving net zero in a healthcare setting using geothermal heat pump systems, right sizing equipment, creating efficient envelop systems, and generating stakeholder buy-in from the project onset.

Presenters will identify potential roadblocks that project teams may encounter and discuss reliable solutions focusing on energy cost reductions, streamlined processes, patient satisfaction and care, and achieving carbon neutrality.

Healthcare Design: How has the conversation about achieving net zero in healthcare settings changed over the last five years?

Jack Nelson: Over the past five years there’s been a growing consensus among healthcare leadership, care providers, capital planning staff, as well as local and national government policy makers to move toward carbon neutral designs.

More institutions are interested in moving beyond the status quo and exploring innovative options for energy reduction.

Where net zero concepts used to be an unachievable/unaffordable “dream,” now there’s new buy-in and innovative approaches and net zero is becoming a readily adopted and energy reduction reality.

With above-average energy use, hospitals account for 8.5 percent of U.S. emissions. The recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) under the Biden Administration invests $370 billion into climate and energy programs. Alongside other policy changes, including tax reform and healthcare subsidies, these changes will have an impact for years to come.

We expect that the IRA will:

  • Incentivize renewables
  • Enable building decarbonization
  • Deploy financing
  • Increase Department of Energy funding for energy efficiency and data tracking.

As healthcare institutions continue to better themselves and evolve, we see them outlining Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) as guiding principles for their facilities.

The biggest impact we can have falls under environmental through sustainability consulting to help them achieve significant energy reduction or zero energy, lower embodied carbon, and access renewable energy sources.

Another growing trend is that newer building codes in many areas are starting to mandate zero energy, such as Boston’s Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) and New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC).

What’s a common misconception clients have about net zero/energy efficiency design and how do you address that with them?

Kevin Wyrsch: Achieving zero energy in healthcare is now truly accessible and cost effective thanks to technological progress, emerging expertise, and major advances in adoption of energy codes.

Maximizing energy efficiency within healthcare requires a high level of design acumen to incorporate the systems that support ultra-low energy use into the complex demands of medical settings, as well as looking for renewable alternatives and opportunities for energy recovery.

Although challenging, the move toward zero energy in healthcare has been recognized as a critical shift, as evidenced by the flood of interest in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Care Sector Pledge, which focuses on emissions reduction and climate resilience.

What’s one takeaway from your session that you hope attendees walk away with?

Nelson: Zero energy performance of behavioral health hospitals is achievable. Starting with innovative planning and design, healthcare organizations can design, construct, and maintain energy-efficient and carbon-neural behavioral health facilities. Energy goals and governmental mandates can be exceeded, and patient care can be improved.

Cory Pouliot: Attendees should not discount the good things that can come out of pushing forward with initiatives that do the right thing, whether it’s carbon reduction or improving patient access, for the communities they serve.

Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) efforts to be good stewards of our community’s environment have directly contributed to at least $10 million of donations to BMC and over $10 million of government incentives that we didn’t ever anticipate when we started this journey. So don’t be afraid to be a first mover and possibly making a mistake, because not moving will be your biggest mistake.

For more on the HCD Conference schedule and registration, visit