The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) is a lifesaver for families of critically or chronically ill children, providing these families a free place to stay while their children are receiving care at a local hospital. The new San Diego Ronald McDonald House is not only providing families with a free place to stay, they are providing them with an environmentally friendly place to stay as well. The San Diego facility recently held a one-year anniversary celebration of its opening as well as a dedication ceremony for its new 116kW solar array.

The San Diego location is the first RMH in the state of California to install a solar array. The system produces approximately 147,000 kW/h per year of electricity to the facility. The renewable energy generated by the solar panels is equivalent to preventing 151,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Originally, the San Diego RMH only had 12 bedrooms and was forced to turn away 100 families per month. Last year, the house expanded to 47 bedrooms including 13 larger rooms for families that need to stay for longer periods of time. Each bedroom has a full bath, desk, wireless Internet access, and a phone. Families share a kitchen that features six cooking stations, individual refrigerators, and a fully stocked pantry.

During the construction process for the new house, more than half of the construction waste was recycled or otherwise diverted from area landfills. The facility also features high-efficiency lighting and mechanical systems, which allow the building to use 17.5 percent less energy than a similarly sized building. These features will help the San Diego RMH in its pursuit of a LEED certification.

The service provided by the Ronald McDonald House is so important to those families in need. I’ve had both family members and friends use these houses while their children have undergone long-term care at hospitals that were far from home. The ability to have a place that they can consider their home away from home allows them to focus their energy on helping their children heal. There is little room for improvement in the RMH model but going green is one way that the organization can make their already great service even better.

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