Built in 1991, Massachusetts’ first residential hospice recently underwent a high-performance renovation that will save energy and enhance residents’ comfort and health. The LEED-Certified remodel incorporated a range of efficiency measures including an ultra-tight building envelope and geothermal HVAC and added universal design modifications throughout the building.

Located in Cambridge, Mass., the Elizabeth Evarts de Rham Hospice Home at Chilton Street cares for terminally ill patients who are no longer able to stay in their own homes. The residence serves up to five individuals in private rooms, with nursing staff on site around the clock, providing an alternative to end-of-life care in an institution such as a hospital or nursing home.

The bedrooms have their own bathrooms and are equipped with an electric bed, flat screen television, nurse's call system, and telephone. Residents and their loved ones also spend time together in the large garden and common living room and dining room. The project was designed to provide the comfortable feel of a traditional single-family home, says builder Doug Hanna of Cambridge-based S+H Construction.

“The trend in hospice design these days is to make residents feel like they are in a place that feels like a regular home environment rather than something institutional, as they live out their last days,” he says.

The renovation has not only helped to reduce operating costs, it has provided a cleaner and more comfortable building for residents, says Hanna, who estimates that Chilton House will be at least 40 percent more efficient than a similar code-built structure.

In addition to adding universal design features such as a commercial-grade elevator, handicap-accessible bathrooms, and wide entries and doors, the project team focused on performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

To meet these goals, Hanna started with sealing and insulating the structure as tightly as possible and adding foam insulation inside to dampen noise and insulate HVAC piping. Three 450-foot geothermal wells provide 100 percent of the building’s heating needs via a high-efficiency, zoned HVAC system. Additionally, a rooftop solar panel preheats the hot water supply.

Other key replacement products included high-efficiency, low-E windows with argon-filled double panes, light-colored roof shingles for reduced heat gain, low-emitting carpets, laminated wood products, and adhesives, and zero-VOC paints. All major appliances are Energy Star rated and all sinks, toilets and showers are low-flow to save water. Other sustainable features include:
--FSC-certified wood products
--a Kone EcoSpace elevator
--an energy recovery ventilator
--drought-resistant and grass-free landscaping
--locally sourced cabinetry
--rainwater collection in underground tanks used for site irrigation