Center for Health and Well-Being: Evidenced-Based Sustainability

The Center for Health and Well-Being is embracing environmentally sustainable practices that staff anticipate will result in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification in the new 68,000-square-foot health care space for students.

Implementing and encouraging sustainable practices ties in to Student Health Services being an accredited Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), which emphasizes the patient-medical provider relationship as well as continuity, accessibility and quality of care. This structure also emphasizes comprehensive, coordinated and integrated patient-centered care that aims to improve health outcomes. At the same time, the PCMH model encourages greater efficiency, resulting in reduced waste and lower costs.

Student Health Services strives to ensure a Healthy Carolina community, which means encouraging the healthiest behaviors for students, faculty and staff. Student health services staff focus on delivering value-based care that is truly patient-centered and contributes to students’ academic success. Sustainability contributes to this concept of an overall healthy campus environment.

Long before it was a concept at USC, Dr. Gene Luna, USC associate vice president for Student Affairs & Academic Support, believed in the idea of sustainability and organizations being environmentally friendly. His leadership has included the completion of four, soon to be five, LEED-certified projects. The Center for Health and Well-Being will become another beacon for sustainability for the university.

LEED Certification

LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and, as an added bonus, save money, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The LEED verification process awards Platinum, Gold, Silver or Certified based on sustainability, water efficiency, energy levels, materials used in construction, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Site sustainability includes, among other things, bike racks and changing rooms for bike riders; access and proximity to public transportation; and efforts the construction crew used to decrease erosion.

Innovation in design also includes the use of green cleaning practices, the use of recycled items, using a LEED-accredited professional to advise on design and includes a significant educational component.

Educational components include activities designed to teach patrons of the facility about the environmentally sustainable features. Student Health Services will provide tours of the facility to highlight these features and how the Patient-Centered Medical Home model for care is carried out in a sustainable environment.

“Starting with a blank-page design, we were able to incorporate research-based best practices into a modern, welcoming center that promotes everyone’s health and well-being,” said Dr. Deborah Beck, executive director for Student Health Services and Healthy Carolina.            

Student Health Services’ Sustainability Efforts

The Center for Health and Well-Being is promoting nature and a calming atmosphere through environmental graphics and thoughtfully selected colors. Design goals for the new center included creating a place that is welcoming, calming and focused on student well-being with sustainability as one of its core principles.

To achieve a welcoming, calming space, five core colors are used in an array of yellow, green and blue shades that are known to help reduce stress and anxiety. To bring nature inside the space, windows bring in natural light, and tree-themed environmental graphics are used throughout the building. A tree graphic stretches all five floors integrating classic elements of nature forming symbiotic relationships between each department on all floors.

Trees are also part of the Patient-Centered Medical Home, which uses care teams to help care for patients and encourage the patient-medical provider relationship. The care teams are identified as dogwood, magnolia, oak and pine.

Tree graphics on each floor display inspirational quotes that reinforce their holistic model – the first floor as the roots – second floor as the foundation – third floor as the structure – fourth floor as the reach – fifth floor as the growth for each individual.

Graphics throughout the building also emphasize the eight dimensions of wellness each student is encouraged to consider in their lifelong health and wellness journey – environmental, intellectual, emotional, physical, social, spiritual, occupational and financial.

The modern amenities and furniture in the building provide a welcoming space for students to hang out even if they are not there for an appointment. The sustainability efforts come full circle as students learn more about conservation and recycling, which will contribute to their overall well-being.

Green Office Certification

Student Health Services was awarded the USC’s Sustainable Carolina Green Office Certification in June 2017. For certification, Student Health Services implemented a recycling and sustainability policy for all employees. The Green Office Certification encourages environmentally friendly practices including recycling, using green cleaning products, conserving energy and reusing office supplies.

The Green Office Certification shows that Student Health Services is contributing to a sustainable community and is helping the university save money and resources. Certification focuses on energy conservation, resource conservation and consumption, waste diversion, alternative transportation and recycling. As a Green Office, Student Health Services staff reduce the environmental footprint of their workplace. 

Student Health Services is advancing their recycling policies and pledging to use green products and will use a checklist of green habits like closing blinds and keeping air conditioning and heat at moderate levels. They are also encouraging keeping plants in the lobby spaces and offices and using alternative transportation like bicycles or walking to get to work.

Student Health Services completed an assessment of its environmentally supportive practices and surveyed the staff to see how they already utilize green office methods and to educate them on how to further their sustainability efforts.

“The Office of Sustainability’s Green Office concepts were in tune with our LEED certification efforts and complemented our vision for a new center,” Beck said. “The timing to seek certification for both was perfect.”

Student Health Services began their intentional pursuit of a sustainable and overall healthy community with the beginning of Healthy Carolina in February 2006, when Dr. Dennis Pruitt, USC’s vice president for Student Affairs & Academic Support and vice provost, announced the launch of the university-wide effort. Healthy Carolina recognizes wellness as a holistic, well-balanced approach to living that involves the mind, body and spirit. The new Center for Health and Well-Being is the continued and sustained embodiment of a Healthy Carolina community for all.