Hurricane Earl played havoc with most of the eastern seaboard this past Labor Day weekend. It would have been convenient to stay on vacation for a few more days or leave the recreational boat in the water over the holiday weekend, but the threat of the force of nature was too great to risk. The weather reports showed computer models projecting the possibility of severe winds and strong tides. So, without question, those of us in Earl’s path heeded the advice and battened down our hatches. There was sufficient evidence, and without hesitation, we changed our practice.

As luck would have it, we saw nothing more than gusty winds and dramatic seas that provided great entertainment for relieved onlookers after the eye of the storm passed us by. We did not complain that our plans were altered, but instead were relieved that we were spared the fury of Earl.

The responsibility we may face to prepare for an impending storm is not much different than the responsibility we have in the preparation for the safe-keeping of our planet and all living things that occupy it. It may not be convenient- and it certainly is more costly-to prepare for possible disasters, but when we avert catastrophe, the rewards are great. The question is always, is there sufficient evidence to change practice?

This issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN features an article on the guidelines about to be released by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)on the LEED for Healthcare rating system, which will guide those of us who design healthcare facilities on how to change our practices (pg. 24).

According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site, “The LEED for Healthcare Green Building Rating System was developed to meet the unique needs of the healthcare market, including inpatient and outpatient care facilities and licensed long-term care facilities. LEED for Healthcare may also be used for medical offices, assisted-living facilities, and medical education and research centers. LEED for Healthcare addresses issues such as increased sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants, traveling distances from parking facilities, and access to natural spaces.

“The LEED for Healthcare rating system represents a culmination of seven years of close collaboration between the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC) and USGBC. GGHC has helped to streamline the LEED for Healthcare’s development schedule by aligning with the LEED for New Construction rating system’s organizational structure, with permission from USGBC, and conducting a robust pilot program that has included more than 100 healthcare facilities.”

With LEED for Healthcare certification about to be put in place, everyone working on healthcare building projects should be reminded that this is about long-range disaster preparedness. As I did when in the path of Earl, we all must make inconvenient efforts to avert catastrophe, but this time it’s to protect future generations. There is sufficient evidence to shift our design practice methodology toward ecological sustainability, and the body of knowledge is growing.

On a sad note, I recently learned of Norman Polsky’s passing. The founder of Fixtures Furniture, which he sold in 1996, Norm has been a good friend of The Center for Health Design and many design organizations, in particular, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), where I came to know and love him. If you ever met him, you know his message was always about delivering acts of kindness, finding your way in the dark using his “Squeeze Norm” flashlight, and methodically investing your money to get rich. Norm gave the flashlight, along with a “Kindness is Contagious” button, and a flyer outlining his investment strategy to almost everyone he met.

Norm was a man of integrity who believed that if you work smart, you will be rewarded and, in turn, you should then help others achieve the same good fortune. Every time I saw Norm, he asked how others were treating me, if I was making progress, and, finally, if there was anything he could do to help. He generously supported my two favorite professional organizations-ASID and The Center for Health Design-and always stipulated that the donations were to be used as seed money for larger opportunities of financial growth. He was strong in his convictions because he became quite successful and had sufficient evidence that we should change our practice. So, for Norm, we did. Both organizations are stronger for having had Norman Polsky as our benefactor.

Rosalyn Cama, FASID, EDAC, is Board Chair for The Center for Health Design located in Concord, California. For more information, visit Healthcare Design 2010 November;10(11):10