Rx for Energy Efficiency in Health Care
Part 2: Tap Teamwork to Find Energy Savings
Tap Teamwork to Find Energy Savings
By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor - December 2009 - Health Care Facilities
As part of HCA's retrocommissioning initiative, Weldy says his department produces a report that is sent to each hospital's facilities department describing organizationwide progress and providing statistics on energy and cost savings, as well as emissions reduced. By stirring up some buzz around a large-scale energy-efficiency initiative, facility executives can begin to exert pressure on the status quo and get energy efficiency onto the radar of purchasers. Showing purchasers the implications of their energy decisions in terms of health care costs or another metric upper management cares most about can ensure that energy is one of the criteria in the selection process of medical equipment.
"Often, just asking the question is all you need to do regarding selecting energy efficient equipment," says Zarecki. "If all things are equal in terms of cost and performance, energy is the next thing we make them think about."
Zarecki heads up his organization's Energy Team, which looks, not only for opportunities within facilities, but also for simple operational strategies normally outside the purview of facilities. Simply checking with administrators in different departments or at different buildings can yield ideas.
For instance, Zarecki says one of Gundersen Lutheran's clinics, which is only open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, had been running its air handlers and exhaust fans 24/7. Shutting them down when no one was there saved the organization about $5,000 per year on energy, he says. That small success story spurred the team to look at other opportunities in other buildings, as well. By rescheduling the air handlers in all buildings, the organization saved $78,000 in 2008. Zarecki says the team also is looking for ways to reduce plug loads and medical equipment loads. "We'll ask, ÔIf this MRI machine isn't being used on the weekends, can we shut it off?'" he says.
New Alliance Aims To Help Hospitals Be More Energy Efficient
The Hospital Energy Alliance (HEA), launched in April 2009, is the third of the Department of Energy's Commercial Building Energy Alliances. With some of the larger health care organizations, such as Kaiser Permanente and the Hospital Corporation of America, as steering committee members, HEA has a five-pronged goal: Harness advanced technologies and analytical tools; eliminate duplication and waste by creating and sharing evidence-based information on successful strategies; serve as a unified industry voice to influence manufacturers and distributors on the demand for efficient products and services; help DOE shape future R&D; and validate the energy and carbon reduction efforts of the nation's hospitals to both internal and external audiences.
Basically, the organization hopes to "help hospital organizations identify and solve issues they're dealing with in being energy efficient," says Dru Crawley, who heads up HEA, and is also team leader, commercial building research and development for the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program.
HEA has five subcommittees that each concentrate on a different facet of energy strategy: power alternatives, lighting, HVAC, medical equipment and plug loads, and benchmarking and integration.
Crawley says that HEA is in the process of organizing several town hall meetings for 2010 to bring together health care facility executives and product manufacturers to discuss energy efficiency issues. For more information on the Hospital Energy Alliance, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/hospital/index.html.
— Greg Zimmerman