Buildings We Love

New mental health and addictions centre at VGH designed to deliver energy savings

A spacious green space sits out front of the  Joseph & Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre at Vancouver General Hospital. And there's outdoor space available on each floor. Show caption
Design elements make simple rooms more interesting in the centre. Show caption
A roof-top garden includes a space where patients can tend to gardening. Show caption

Emphasis on efficiency started well ahead of construction of building

The opening of the Joseph & Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre is a landmark moment for mental health and substance-use care in B.C. At over 130,000 square feet, the eight-storey building situated on the Vancouver General Hospital campus is the largest purpose-built facility of its kind in the province.

In tune with Vancouver Coastal Health's patient-centred philosophy, the building's design has a welcoming, home-like quality. The health authority worked closely with BC Hydro in the design of the new building, which benefitted from energy modeling, the practice that digitally simulates a building's energy usage ahead of construction. Energy modeling is a key function of BC Hydro's New Construction Program.

"The program supports our mission to act as leaders in environmental stewardship of healthcare facilities and infrastructure," says Paul Becker, chief facilities operating officer with Vancouver Coastal Health. "Energy modelling ensures that appropriate sustainability principles are embedded early-on in project plans, through design to construction. The result is a better health care facility for our physicians, staff and patients, lower operating costs, and a building that has less of an environmental impact."

The energy model estimates electricity savings of more than 800,000 kilowatt-hours per year – for $60,000 in savings – while the total energy saved represents 77 tonnes of CO2 annually, the yearly amount of carbon sequestered by 82 acres of forest.

Thermal comfort, intuitive lighting design, and a quiet healing environment

With 100 private rooms, each with its own washroom, the facility replaces the outdated VGH Willow Chest Centre (circa 1948) and Health Centre at Vancouver General Hospital (circa 1943).

Natural light is plentiful in each patient's room and in common therapeutic areas. There's a rooftop garden, and every floor has access to outdoor space in recognition of the role of the outdoors in promoting health and well being. Patient and staff thermal comfort is also a high priority.

Other efficiency highlights include:

  • In-space heating and cooling in patient rooms
  • Active chilled beam technology, unique in hospital design, in common and therapeutic areas
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout, reducing the quantity of domestic hot water consumed
  • A high-efficiency HVAC system that minimizes the reliance on fans for blowing air, saving energy and creating a quieter healing environment
  • High-performance glazing on windows that act as a barrier between indoor and outdoor air conditions, guarding pre-set temperatures inside but still allowing in an abundance of daylight

The facility's lighting design meets the province's strict health care illumination requirements, while also taking into consideration the maintenance costs of illuminating such a large facility. The building's main lighting system uses high-efficiency LED luminaires in common areas, such as hallways, stairwells and therapeutic meeting rooms. Advanced lighting controls, including dimmers and vacancy sensors, automatically adjust lighting levels in private offices, patient rooms, therapeutic meeting rooms and staff work stations, conserving energy and improving patient and staff visual comfort.

New standard set for mental health and substance-use care in B.C.

"With one in five Canadians diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime, this new facility is vitally important to support patient and family-centred care," says Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation."We are very grateful to our donors, and to government, for making this very special place a reality."

Thanks to $57 million in funding from the provincial government, and a lead gift of $12 million from philanthropists Joseph and Rosalie Segal, the facility opens the doors to a new era of mental-health and substance-use care in B.C.

"Mental health problems are far more prevalent than most of us realize," Joseph Segal has said. "The cure is not easy. I believe that this building that we are dedicating will be a step to understanding and tolerance."