One thing you should know about me is that I come from a family of mental health professionals. My grandfather worked as a psychiatrist for decades; then, my mother decided to become a psychologist. It was during her training that she met my father, who was also a psychiatrist. So, when it was time for me to choose my career, I decided to become the first counselor in the family.
I would say that it was the best decision in my life. Apart from the fact that the world needs more counselors, my family already established a small mental health hospital in town. People from other cities would flock to our facility to receive mental health treatments. Medical hospitals would also recommend patients to us continuously. From a business perspective, it was booming.
Since the facility was a little outdated, it incurred a lot of damages when a terrible hurricane came. First came the flood, which went up to our thighs. We thought that that was it, but then the roof caved in, and the windows shattered. After a bit of discussion with my parents, we thought it was high time for a significant renovation. It would be easier to set up tents outside of it anyway than accommodating our patients in a broken-down facility.
Priorities Before Renovation
Despite being successful in their fields, my parents remained as frugal as they could be. The first thing they told me before the renovation even happened was to find the cheapest contractor. “We just need a new roof and some new windows, and that’s it,” they said. However, I begged to disagree.
The reality that some older people may not see was that buildings in the past were not built with sustainability in mind. For example, we still used a lot of electricity because everything was closed in, and it was so hot in every room. The floors were not sealed and waterproofed either, so when the water rushed into the facility, the tiled floors went beyond repair. It was a long discussion, but I finally got my parents to find a contractor who prioritized sustainability during the renovation process.
I could tell you how challenging it was to find a sustainable contractor. Of course, although more and more people wanted to have eco-friendly homes and buildings, there were still many more who wanted to save on construction expenses, so that’s who they cater to. But when I finally found one, I was over the moon about everything they wanted to do with our facility.
For one, the contractor wanted to replace the ceramic tiles on the floor with solid wood. They knew a place that sold reclaimed solid wood panels, so it would be like recycling better materials, which I loved. We just needed to decide on the colors in times of war, and that was it.
Another thing that the contractor mentioned was using bigger windows. The old design of our facility barely had any windows because mental health was technically taboo for decades. However, since society accepts the subject more now than ever, it may be ideal for adding more windows that would allow the light to come into every room. Of course, they would still be one-way windows to follow our confidentiality promise to our clients, but it might help more than bother them if they could see the outside world.
The contractor and I also talked about using solar panels for the entire building. I found this ideal, considering we did not need electricity in the facility 24/7. My parents tried to say no to this because those were technically expensive, but we would not need to pay another dime to an electric company in the long run. The latter thankfully won them over, so we got solar panels.
The unique idea that my contractor presented had a garden roof. Instead of the regular galvanized iron, they would fill the entire roof with grass and plants. Everyone could go up and relax there while waiting for their turn. More importantly, it could provide enough fresh air and shade, so we might not need air conditioners too much.
With all the renovations happening at once, I was surprised when the contractor pointed out that four months already passed since the hurricane devastated our facility. I honestly forgot that that was the sole reason why my parents agreed on renovating our small mental health hospital anyway. The process fascinated me so much that it felt like we were doing it as an improvement, not as a necessity.
Well, I would have to backtrack on the latter statement. Given how much our climate changed over the years, it’s necessary to make sustainable homes and facilities. For instance, we would not be burning as much fossil fuel with the solar panels installed as before. We could even plant fruits and vegetables on the garden roof to avoid buying plastic-covered fresh produce in the markets. Also, we would no longer need to rely on air conditioning units too much because the facility would be well-ventilated.
It was a win, for sure.