Over Thanksgiving, the Smilow Cancer Hospital became the first Yale health care facility to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Though the hospital received the lowest of LEED’s four certification levels — the “certified level” — the hospital’s president and CEO, Marna Borgstrom, said it is unusual for health care facilities to receive any LEED certification because of the high energy consumption they require. The hospital, which was completed in October 2009, is the largest health care facility in Connecticut to receive LEED certification.

LEED is a nationally recognized green building certification system that awards certification based on implementing strategies for better environmental and health performance. It is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, which verifies the construction and performance of designated green buildings using a series of guidelines based on energy efficiency.

Council spokeswoman Ashley Katz said that the Smilow Cancer Hospital used several strategies to minimize its energy use. These include optimized “circulation of natural light in its lobbies, corridors and waiting areas, reduced heat gain as a result of several strategic screens throughout the building and improved indoor air quality because of “upgraded air handling units.” She added that the Center’s environmentally friendly features also include glass exterior walls and reflective rooftops that allow for circulation of natural light in the lobbies, corridors and waiting areas, as well as occupancy sensors to reduce energy usage.

One unique aspect of the Center’s design is an artwork-decorated rooftop garden accessible to patients and their families, according to the press release. The “healing garden” includes a saltwater fish tank as well as glass exterior walls, and has replaced television sets usually found in hospital waiting rooms. The “healing garden” received the 2010 Award of Merit from the Connecticut chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for its design.

Borgstrom added in the press release that medical efficiency and patient focus were not sacrificed for environmental friendliness.

The Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch architecture firm designed the center.

“We are very proud for the Smilow’s LEED Certification,” said firm spokesperson Terri Evans.

In addition to this most recent accolade, the Smilow Cancer Center has received other awards in the past, such as the 2011 Award of Merit from the Connecticut Green Building Council for its environmentally friendly design.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the Smilow Cancer Center is the most comprehensive cancer center in New England. It is a 14-story, 500,000-square-foot facility, which includes 168 private inpatient rooms, outpatient multidisciplinary treatment centers, 12 operating rooms, a floor for children with cancer, a specialized women’s cancer center and diagnostic and therapeutic radiology services for children and adults.

There are currently over 43,000 projects participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising more than 7.8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 120 countries.