Midwest Health-Care Operations Add Solar, Energy Efficiency

by | Apr 7, 2010

RushEastTowerHealth-care facility upgrades across the nation are taking different roads to sustainability. For instance, Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center is readying its hospital expansion to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, while Family Care Health Centers of St. Louis is adding solar panels to reduce energy costs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says when it comes to investing in energy efficiency hospitals and health-care facilities should not wait because some of the low-hanging fruit such as maximizing systems for efficiency offer savings that pay for themselves in two to three years.

Taking it several steps further than low-hanging fruit upgrades, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is aiming for LEED gold certification for its new orthopedic building and new East Tower, scheduled to open in 2012, reports Fox2now.com. Currently, only four U.S. hospitals have earned LEED gold certification out of 100 certified hospitals.

The 220,000-sq.- ft. Orthopedic Building, completed in late 2009, features a green roof that restores 50 percent of the site with adaptive vegetation, decreases 25 percent of storm water runoff and reduces heat island effect. Other sustainable measures include low-flow plumbing fixtures, and low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint and sealants.

The $75-million project used recycled materials including concrete, steel and wallboard. Construction materials came from local manufacturers within 500 miles of Chicago to lower fuel consumption and emissions. The facility plans to implement a trash recycling program throughout the campus.

The new hospital’s central power plant uses low CFC chillers and boilers for higher efficiency (PDF). Energy conservation measures include energy-efficient systems for heating and cooling, passive solar light in waiting rooms, as well as energy-efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs.

In the neighboring state of Missouri, Family Care Health Centers is installing solar energy systems at two St. Louis facilities, reports St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The panels will generate approximately 50 kilowatts of energy, offsetting a portion of electrical consumption at each facility and reducing their operating costs. The projects should be completed by May 2010.

The centers received $561,000 in funding as part of the federal stimulus bill to offset some of the costs. Each facility will feature a lobby kiosk that shows the amount of energy being generated by the rooftop panels and associated reduction in electrical consumption at the facility, according to the article.

Other hospitals that have taken advantage of special funding and grants to make energy-efficient upgrades include Raritan Bay Medical Center and UPMC’s Children’s Hospital.

For hospitals considering how to become Energy Star rated, the EPA provides a five-stage approach.

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