To the editor:
The announcement that developer Foulger-Pratt is planning the long-awaited redevelopment of the Landmark Mall site and that Inova Alexandria Hospital will anchor the site is great news for both the City of Alexandria and the hospital. This project also offers a unique opportunity for commercial developers to engage in environmentally sustainable practices that go beyond those required in the city’s current Green Building Policy, adopted in 2019.
Specifically, we recommend that both Foulger-Pratt and Inova strive to achieve net-zero buildings, where energy consumption is roughly equal to renewable energy generation. To have any chance of meeting the city’s Environmental Action Plan 2040 goal of having new construction be carbon neutral by FY2030 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 100% by 2050, we need to get serious about environmental sustainability now.
Green design is an excellent business decision since it lowers the ownership cost of a building over its lifetime, while reducing its environmental footprint. In addition, green construction raises the image of developers as good corporate citizens. Upfront investment in green building can result in a 10% or greater increase in asset value, almost 20% lower maintenance costs than typical commercial buildings and lower exposure to energy price risk.
To achieve net zero buildings while maximizing the profitability and other benefits of sustainable building practices we recommend that both Foulger-Pratt and Inova:
• Use only electricity, no gas, for all energy needs;
• Use solar panels/solar thermal collectors both onsite and remotely with consideration to operating same as a microgrid/nanogrid to reduce costs and power outages;
• Use healthy building materials to maintain healthy indoor air quality combined with energy-efficient exhaust air heat-recovery systems.
It is particularly important for hospitals to engage in state-of-the art environmentally sustainable building practices. The healthcare industry accounts for 9.8% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As stated on the CDC’s website, “climate change, together with other natural and human-made health stressors, influences human health and disease in numerous ways, including increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.”
There are a number of examples of hospitals that use renewable and cost-effective energy technologies that reduce their negative effect on the environment while generating cost savings over the long term and goodwill in their communities. In Virginia, both the Winchester Hospital and Carilion New River Valley Medical Center will install solar panels nearby to provide energy needs, and John’s Hopkins Bayview in Baltimore has invested in a solar farm built remotely on the Eastern Shore. There are many others around the country.
As plans move forward for this exciting new development at Landmark, the city should do its best to ensure that its effect on greenhouse gases and the health of our citizens is minimized. Patients, staff and physicians – and all Alexandria residents – will benefit from a facility that is a beacon for environmental sustainability.
We encourage Alexandrians who share our concerns about the Landmark project to write to Ashley Labadie, the city staffer responsible for working with the Advisory Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Alexandrians for the EAP 2040, The Potomac River Group of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club