MOBs Go Green

This sector greatly benefits from sustainable design.

Adding green features to to commercial real estate properties has become a mainstream trend in the industry. And while all major property sectors have jumped on the green bandwagon, several niche markets also are beginning to realize the benefits of sustainable design.

MOBs and other medical-type facilities that use green elements reduce property expenses and provide cleaner and healthier environments for patients and clients. Commercial Investment Real Estate sat down with William E. Wiebe, CCIM, CRE, SIOR, senior vice president of Anchor Properties in Covington, Ky., to discuss his experience working with MOBs and hospitals and how sustainable design can benefit this sector.

CIRE: How did you become interested in working with green MOBs?

Wiebe: My partnership became interested in U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental certification in the last three years through some of the medical architects that we work with. We have one MOB that is the basic LEED certification. All future buildings will have some level of LEED implemented into the design. Currently, we are working with a local hospital to build a 450,000-square-foot facility on 60 acres in Cincinnati, about 10 minutes from the CBD.

CIRE: What are the standard sustainable features that go into constructing a new MOB? Does it depend on whether it’s a hospital or just a medical facility?

Wiebe: There is a difference in delivery of health care services for a hospital compared to an MOB. While both provide diagnosis and medical procedures, hospitals also create a healing environment and rehabilitative service. For example, a hospital with sustainable design as a goal will provide single patient rooms for patients, making them less susceptible to infections.

Also, rooms with exposure to natural light and other environmental features have been known to have a positive and measurable effect on the healing process. The term used in medical architecture is evidence-based design. And if the patient is able to heal faster they will spend less time in the hospital, saving the facility millions of dollars.

CIRE: Is it more costly to implement sustainable features in MOBs than in other property types? In what ways?

Wiebe: There are slight differences in the construction of MOBs and traditional office facilities. However, MOBs and ambulatory surgery centers that provide more than just diagnosis and treatment but also surgery are faced with various issues from the disposal of waste from the surgery, making building costs significantly higher.

CIRE: What advantages do green MOBs have in the marketplace? Are investors/owners/tenants looking for sustainable features? Do these features translate to higher sales prices/rents?

Wiebe: The advantages of green MOBs are just beginning to filter into the decision-making process of property owners. Cost of construction has recently dropped and the ability to build green is easier. My personal experience from owning this type of facility is that ease and efficiency greatly contribute to reducing the operating expenses.

When you can operate the facility more efficiently, you can provide savings to the physician, usually thousands of dollars over the course of a year. The savings in operating costs equates to more medical practices seeking tenancy in your building and better occupancy levels in the long run, thus a higher investment quality building and better capitalization rates.