The benefits of a rooftop garden are not only environmental, but extend to the human spirit. At the Ulfelder Healing Garden atop Massachusetts General Hospital’s Yawkey Cancer Center, those benefits are realized.

The 6,300-square-foot foliage-filled healing garden gives cancer patients and their families a much-needed retreat and helps the hospital conserve energy at the same time. It is just one of the many Boston sites included on tours during this week’s GreenBuild International Conference, a large annual gathering of builders and remodellers sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Bringing green design into health care and hospital building is a growing trend across the U.S.. At Dell Children’s Medical Center, which opened in Austin, Texas in 2007, green has been the focus from the ground up. In fact, says spokesperson Matilda Sanchez, the hospital is waiting to hear if they have achieved “platinum status” in the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program sponsored by the USGBC. Among the many green elements at Dell is a four-story interior healing garden with a waterfall that starts on the top floor, as well as a three-acre healing garden with a labyrinth that can be seen from many of the hospital rooms.

“Dell is setting the bar for hospital buildings,” says Sanchez. “While we were still under construction, many other hospitals looked at what we were doing. There was even a delegation from Australia who came to get ideas.”

“It’s a different way of healiing,” she says. “A patient’s surroundings are important. Eighty percent of our light is natural light. People often say it doesn’t feel like a hospital.”

The Ulfelder Healing garden in Boston, named for the late gynecologist and oncologist Dr. Howard Ulfelder, is located on the 8th floor adjacent to the Cancer Treatment Center and opened in 2005. It was inspired in part by social worker Evelyn Malkin, who said she had had the idea for at least 10 years.

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