Building a hospital that is healthy for the environment

QUETZALTENANGO – A 230-bed hospital with an earthquake-resistant design currently being built in Guatemala is an example of incorporating environmentally friendly features and embedding sustainability from design to operation.

The $40 million hospital, funded by the Guatemalan Social Security Institute, will provide up to 300,000 people from the surrounding area with better quality health care once complete.

In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, UNOPS is providing technical assistance to the Guatemalan Social Security Institute for the construction, improvement of facilities and medical services, and procurement of medical equipment such as furniture.

To enhance the skills of local people, UNOPS and the building contractors have trained and hired local staff, including women, in technical and management positions, creating nearly 540,000 days of labour.

In line with global environmental standards

Located in Quetzaltenango, the new regional hospital is being built in line with UNOPS environmental management system, which allows project managers to identify environmental benefits and mitigate any risks. For example, the building makes use of natural light and ventilation to reduce energy consumption.

An environmental impact study was prepared prior to the works commencing, and the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources, which manages natural resources in the country, approved the design. In addition, local government and civil society groups were closely consulted.

Extra care was taken to avoid damaging the surrounding metropolitan areas, for example by constructing wells to assist rainwater drainage, during which the project team discovered dinosaur remains.

In a demonstration of UNOPS ongoing commitment to disaster risk reduction, retaining walls will help avoid landslides and soil-compacting machinery was calibrated to minimize the risk of micro-earthquakes.

With water for construction being brought in to alleviate undue burden on local reservoirs, once operational, the hospital will use its own non-municipal water supply, including a rainwater tank with a mechanism to prevent overflowing during torrential rains.

An on-site waste-water treatment plant will provide safe passage for water into the sewers, avoiding any potential contamination of rivers and springs in the area.

In 2013, UNOPS received ISO 14001 certification, the world's most recognized environmental management standard, awarded to organizations that actively assess and manage their environmental impacts.