Long-Range Projects Add Big Savings for Health Care Facilities

by | Jul 29, 2009

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gunderson-solarFor hospitals willing to make the investment, significant cost savings await in adding renewables, revamping lighting fixtures and maximizing a building’s heating and cooling system.

New construction hospitals can take efficiency a step further by designing for improved employee workflow and patient capacity.

For example, instead of having all radiology equipment in one department of the hospital, it might make sense to distribute it around the facility, to improve workflow for the staff, said Derek Wagner, EcoMagination leader for GE Healthcare.

“Having the hospital laid out in a way that increases patient through-put means you can have the same physical footprint, but do more business,” Wagner said.

Also with new construction, hospitals can build systems to recycle processed water for HVAC systems, landscaping and toilet flushing, Wagner said, adding, “That involves dual plumbing, which is not as easy to retrofit.”

Gundersen Lutheran, based in LaCrosse, Wis., added chiller-power optimization software to save $70,000 annually, said Jeff Rich, Executive Director.

The hospital also is tapping into renewables, including using solar on a portion of the parking garage, to defray the cost of lighting and ventilation.

From a larger perspective, Gundersen Lutheran plans to generate 100 percent of its energy from renewables by 2014. The hospital is hoping to harness the power of the Mississippi River in a lock and dam project. And the hospital is working on a wind power project that may be in place in 2010.

Hospitals can reduce their reliance on the grid by adopting co-generation (heating and electricity) and tri-generation (heating, cooling and electricity) options, Wagner said.

While changing incandescents to CFLs may be an easy fix for some areas of a hospital, most parts of the building have extensive built-in fixtures, meaning that a complete revamp is necessary to realize true savings, said Clark Reed, Director of the Healthcare Facilities Division, Energy Star, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Typically, that means doing away with inefficient T12 lamp fixtures and going with T5 and T8 fixtures. “Old tech is magnetic ballast. New tech is electronic, or digital, ballast,” Reed said.

Other more expensive but worthwhile upgrades involve heating and cooling.

Upgrading a hospital’s air handling system to allow variable air volume can result in big savings, since most hospitals have constant volume handling systems, where the unit is either on or off.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital in Ontario is using a $2 million energy efficiency and facility upgrade program to add a SolarWall air heating system, as well as reducing its environmental footprint to save about $163,000 in utility costs annually.

At St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton in Ontario, a $9.3-million energy retrofit and renewal program combines energy-efficient upgrades with building enhancements. Combined, the programs are expected to save the hospital $1 million annually at its Charlton and Stoney Creek campuses.

This is Part 3 of a series on health care facilities and energy efficiency. Please refer to Part 1, Part 2, Part 4 and Part 5.

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