Future and past in the plan

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Future and past in the plan
Future and past in the plan
The challenges that come with building a LEED-certified veterans' nursing home are many. Where do you find biodegradable wet wipes? How do you sterilize medical equipment in an environmentally friendly way? Is it too much to expect residents and staff to abstain from smoking on the facility campus?

Kay Maley, the interim administrator at the Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans' Nursing Home in St. Augustine, FL, seemingly knows the answers to all of them.

Maley is a program administrator for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs and has been working at the facility since August. Its first resident moved in Sept. 20.

“It's just so awesome to work in such a spacious, attractive, eco-friendly environment. When I drive to the campus in the morning, seeing the flags flying, and the landscaping, it puts a smile on my face,” Maley says.

The Lassen facility is the first skilled nursing home in Florida to be LEED-certified. This spring it received the United States Green Building Council's Gold-level of certification for meeting higher levels of green building criteria.

To attain LEED certification, a building must be able to provide a certain percentage of outdoor area. Maley explained that translates into each “house” or wing of the facility having a screened-in porch and private walking garden. She says this makes it easier for dementia patients who like to wander to do so safely.

However, Maley worried early on that one LEED-mandated restriction might be difficult to enforce.

“We are a non-smoking campus. No one is allowed to smoke once they drive on the property. Staff are not even allowed to go out and take a cigarette break,” she explained.

So far, smoking has not been an issue. Nobody has complained, and Maley says it sets a good, healthy example for the industry.

Darcielle Gray, who served as the state Veterans Affairs representative for the design and construction side of the project, said that it can be difficult to find eco-friendly building materials and medical supplies, but doing so brings in higher quality products. For example, when possible, the design team chose to build with tile rather than drywall in hallways and resident bathrooms. Tile lasts much longer and is easier to clean.

Other sustainability decisions include using foam soap throughout the facility since it rinses away faster and needs less water. The facility also employs water-conserving toilets.

Even with all the nods toward sustainability and the environment, the Lassen home is, above all else, dedicated to honoring veterans and caring for them. Maley says it's humbling to care for residents who were willing to die for their country.

The facility has dedicated spaces where every resident can show off his military memorabilia, in resident rooms and common areas. Maley remembered  the time school children visited veterans in the dementia units. Residents with poor short-term memory started talking about their war and military memories.

“All of a sudden, they would start talking and remembering,” she recalled. “What a moment.”

Lessons learned

1. Making “green” decisions requires creativity — hire with that in mind

2. Make sure employees are dedicated to both sustainability and veteran

3. Choosing higher-cost sustainable products can save money in the long run