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Hospitals Can Cut Energy Use 60% by Redesigning their Energy Systems

Hospitals, which account for four percent of all energy consumed in the U.S., can achieve a 60 percent reduction in energy utility use by redesigning the way they use energy, which will translate into savings of about $730,000 annually for a newly constructed, code-compliant hospital, according to a study released at the CleanMed conference. It can also prevent approximately 7,800 tons of carbon emissions per year. The health-care sector also gets a new “green” initiative.

The study, conducted in collaboration between University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab and NBBJ, identifies a process that uses architectural, mechanical and central plant systems to deliver significant efficiencies. These strategies include heat recovery, daylighting, in-room environment tempering, vacancy air control, and thermal energy storage.

The study finds that this approach can be implemented for less than three percent of the total project’s cost, which is expected to be recouped through energy savings and utility incentives within the first five to eight years of a building’s life.

The big breakthrough was addressing the re-heating of centrally-cooled air, which is the largest contributor to wasted energy in a hospital, representing around 40 percent of annual heating energy usage, say researchers.

The study, “Targeting 100! Envisioning the high performance hospital: implications for a new, low energy, high performance prototype” (PDF), shows that hospitals can implement energy-saving measures without substantially increased capital investment, and meet the 2030 Challenge for 2010, which is an effort to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in buildings.

The study is based on a three-year reassessment of architectural systems, building mechanical systems and central plant systems, which included energy simulations, iterative hourly load testing, prototyping, cost analysis and peer review.

“The research shows we can integrate these strategies into most new and renovated hospital projects with little cost implications, which eliminates the need for our clients to decide between reducing CO2 emissions and buying an MRI,” said Duncan Griffin, NBBJ’s healthcare energy specialist and one of the lead researchers on the study.

In April last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Hospital Energy Alliance (HEA) to drive energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in the health-care sector.

As part of the health-care sector’s drive for increased sustainability, six leading health-care systems have formed the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) to help accelerate the sector’s shift toward environmental sustainability.

The group’s Healthier Hospitals Agenda outlines specific activities that hospitals can take to reduce their environmental footprint and improve health outcomes. At the highest level, the group says health-care facilities need to integrate sustainability into the culture of the organizations with CEO-level support.

The agenda calls for hospitals to implement environmentally-preferred purchasing strategies, reduce chemical use, seek alternative sustainable products, implement green building measures, and purchase and serve healthy food and foods made in sustainable ways.

It also includes conservation measures that will reduce the consumption of energy, water, and raw materials, and minimize waste. Efforts include developing waste management and recycling programs, transitioning to renewable energy sources, eliminating incineration, and improving transportation strategies.

The six organizations that comprise the group are Advocate Health Care, Catholic Healthcare West, Hospital Corporation of America, Kaiser Permanente, MedStar Health, and Partners Healthcare.

Three partner organizations — Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth, and The Center for Health Design — will provide expertise and technical assistance as well as develop training programs to help hospitals carry out the HHI agenda recommendations.

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