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Health-Care Industry Needs Sustainability Managers

Three out of four survey respondents think hospitals need a sustainability manager, according to a survey of health-care professionals attending the “Energy, Economics & Environment: Making the 3Es Work Together in Healthcare” seminars during the first half of 2010.

The survey (PDF), conducted by Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute, finds that many organizations have yet to create a sustainability manager job position, which means that health-care facilities do not have individuals who have a facilities or energy-related background.

The report’s authors said this has led to a focus on recycling and waste management programs, instead of energy and water efficiency projects. It also means that sustainability is becoming a core competency of facility professionals in other industries instead of the health-care sector, according to the report.

In several regions, utilities offer millions of dollars in rebate and incentive funds but too often hospitals fail to tap this funding source or they approach the utility too late to receive any money, say report authors.

As an example, one utility health-care segment manager cited a hospital that buys bus passes for employees but has not replaced its older T12 fluorescent lamps with more efficient lighting.

The report finds that cost is the biggest factor in all purchasing decisions. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said “initial cost” takes precedence in the  final selection of equipment and materials on recent projects.

Another key finding shows that when installing or specifying energy-saving technology, the biggest concern is that the technology won’t deliver the projected performance, according to 70 percent of respondents.

“If you haven’t had a retrofit in the past 5 to 7 years, do it now. You’ll get on average a 12-14 percent improvement. Fluorescent technologies are incredible. There are better control systems. LEDs are economical for hard to service areas,” said Brian Weldy, vice president of Sustainability for IFMA Healthcare Council and vice president of Facilities for HCA, in the report.

Reliability of infrastructure is another big concern according to 64 percent of respondents. However, the report also finds that in Chicago, nearly 80 percent of respondents said regulatory pressure was their biggest concern, indicating regional differences, according to the authors.

As another example, in the Midwest, more than 60 percent believe that health care is implementing sustainable solutions as effectively as or better than other industries. In the cities of Phoenix and Tampa, 70 percent said they are doing worse than other industries.

Based on different projects across the nation, health-care facility upgrades are taking different routes to sustainability.

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2 thoughts on “Health-Care Industry Needs Sustainability Managers

  1. I believe implementing sustainability programs in a medical center has a synergistic benefit for the work place environment, patient and staff safety. And this could result to better service on health care.

  2. Retrofitting for energy efficiency is an excellent idea, or even better, a whole building audit to understand where the most benefit can be gained and the order in which to complete programs. Applause to the industry though with implementing recycling and waste programs, as well as providing benefit to associates and the environment with the bus passes. It’s a mix of programs that encompass multiple areas of people, planet and profit impact that will lead to sustainability.

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