CEQA Tips for Hospital Seismic Standards

California’s hospital administrators face a January 2013 deadline to retrofit or rebuild acute-care inpatient hospitals to meet stringent earthquake life-safety standards, complicated further by the passage of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

“With the far-reaching requirements set by new regulation, and complexity of project design and implementation stemming there from, hospitals are already looking at how to comply with the deadline,” said Sarah Lozano, a Dudek senior project manager specializing in compliance for healthcare facilities. “They face a dilemma – it may be more cost-effective to tear down and rebuild to meet the seismic retrofit standards; however, hospitals cannot be shut down for that length of time.”

Lozano said many hospitals are initiating the retrofit process now via environmental review for CEQA compliance. She said CEQA approaches that can save time and facilitate a smooth transition to design and construction include:

  • Having the experience to facilitate realistic solutions for impacts such as increased traffic, lighting/aesthetics, greenhouse gas emissions and noise. (Compliance with AB 32 can be challenging, since hospital facilities are typically exempt from Title 24 standards but must meet other state requirements related to ventilation and air-exchange systems.)
  • Coordinating frequently with the client and entire project consultant team, using document management technology that is accessible to all team members.
  • Collaborating on approaches to alter construction phasing to mitigate for difficult environmental issues such as helping keep air pollutants below a level of significance. This approach for the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Fontana, California significantly reduced CEQA processing time.
  • Considering phased construction to minimize disruptions to patients and staff as well as to provide compliance with operating standards under the seismic retrofit act.