Henderson’s Healthcare Industry Takeaways from 2023 Fall Conference Season

Team Henderson’s health sector hit the conference trail this fall to connect with industry leaders, share best practices, and discuss what’s next in healthcare design. Russ Carter, inpatient practice director at Henderson Engineers, and Greg Johnson, business development director at Henderson Building Solutions, attended the 39th annual FPC Seminar + Expo. The event brings Florida’s design and construction professionals together to meet and discuss the latest trends, ideas, and research in healthcare design.

Liz Greer, health sector behavioral health practice manager, and Josh Smith, health sector sustainability facilitator and mechanical engineer, represented Henderson Engineers at the KCAHE Annual Conference 2023. With a theme of “Engineering the Future of Healthcare,” the event provided a forum to connect with experts and discuss the trends that are shaping the industry. The group returned with the following key takeaways:

Emerging Energy Concepts for the Design and Construction of Healthcare Facilities

With healthcare facilities accounting for approximately 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, environmental sustainability and decarbonization of healthcare facilities are the forefront of the climate action conversation. The idea of decarbonizing the entire healthcare sector is becoming more of the norm, leading to the application of micro-grids. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is allowing a waiver for micro-grids and associated battery back-up systems to be utilized in lieu of more common emergency generators. The application is dependent on the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) and overall facility functional program to determine the facility battery back-up conditions.

Introductions of New Technologies

Multiple sessions involved the discussion of innovative technologies and whether more modern-day technologies like lighting controls or artificial intelligence (AI) customizable lighting technology and approaches are creating a new paradigm that focuses not only on vision but also on human psychophysical well-being in interior spaces. Whether it’s artificial or natural lighting integrated into the overall illumination scheme, the infection control aspect is considered when reviewing viable strategies to address visual field satisfaction for the patient and staff in all operational considerations.

The use of automation inside healthcare facilities like material logistics or more futuristic AI applications pose regulatory challenges due to ever evolving technological advances. Improving patient and staff safety along with reducing costs by enhancing operational efficiencies is compelling owners and planning teams to consider use of automation earlier in planning processes. This is primarily due to simultaneous and powerful disruptors such as the energy crisis, geopolitical issues, labor challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic, and natural disasters.

State of the Industry

It’s clear that healthcare has been changed forever by the pandemic and healthcare organizations (HCOs) across the country are adapting quickly to keep up with the everchanging world. Michelle Mader with Ankura Consulting shared her observations for the healthcare industry and made some predictions on what is next. Her presentation focused on how HCOs are facing new challenges and are being forced to evaluate projects on a revenue per square foot basis instead of cost per square foot.

The most expensive location in a hospital for treatment is the emergency department (ED). However, ED visits are lower now than they were in 2019. This has pushed hospitals to look elsewhere for revenue. Ensuring projects are right-sized and meet the intended return on investment (ROI) is crucial to HCOs’ success. Mader predicts we will continue to see the push for outpatient and B-occupancy construction to help reduce construction costs and provide valuable services to patients outside of the traditional hospital.

Joint Commission Update

In 2022, The Joint Commission (TJC) became a signatory of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Sector Climate Pledge to reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To support this initiative, TJC announced a new voluntary sustainable healthcare certification. The certification encourages HCOs to pursue energy-efficient practices in their facilities. George Mills with JLL provided an overview of the certification and its benefits to HCOs. He also shared an update on TJC’s 2023 initiative to review “above and beyond” standards that go beyond the CMS requirements. By reviewing and eliminating the standards that do not provide value, HCOs can focus less on bureaucratic procedures and more on patient welfare.


Decarbonization discussions brought together experts with diverse backgrounds from across the country. The topic focused on reducing carbon emissions by reducing overall energy usage, regardless of source. Electrification is becoming more common across the country and its application to healthcare is just beginning. The panel agreed that electrification has many challenges in hospitals, so long-term planning is required to move towards decarbonization. The move away from natural gas should be gradual to ensure the grid and associated infrastructure can meet the demands. Depending on carbon intensity of the grid, electrification might not reduce carbon emissions on day one, but most utilities are committed to reducing carbon intensity over the next decade.

Henderson Knows Health

We’ve been designing healthcare projects for 25+ years and understand that each facility, campus, and project requires a unique approach. With that great responsibility comes the need to design solutions for patient safety, complex equipment, facility infrastructure, and resident comfort. The healthcare industry is growing and changing quickly. Our experts are on the frontlines helping healthcare providers navigate innovative technology, complicated code requirements, and the emergence of neighborhood medtail clinics – all while taking patient care and safety as seriously as our clients do.

Written By

Health Sector Inpatient Practice Director

Written By

Health Sector Behavioral Health Practice Manager

Written By

Business Development Director

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Mechanical Engineer


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