The emergency power and chilled water system at Crouse Hospital had not been upgraded since it was installed, in 1972. Everything was still operational and from the front of the house's perspective, there wasn't a shortfall in service. But replacement parts were getting harder to obtain and there was no way the aging infrastructure would be able to support 14 new operating rooms, plus a 21,000-square-foot emergency department and a nine-story private patient room tower, both upcoming projects in the master plan.
Not only was the infrastructure outdated, it was also spread out over six different locations in the four-building campus. Upgrading it would require a highly coordinated effort to ensure that use of the services was never lost. But first came convincing those holding the purse strings to add $13 million to the OR expansion project. "That's one of the biggest challenges facility managers have," Tetrault says. "To lobby for themselves. The facility is a business. It's a business function that needs to be kept up."
Using simple PowerPoint documents and brief meetings, Tetrault showed hospital executives where they were as far as the infrastructure's capacity. He even scheduled a meeting with just a few minutes of presentation materials and then sprung a tour to go down and look at the vintage mechanicals. "For three of the four people on the tour, they had never been down there in 10 years," Tetrault says. "They didn't know the subbasement even existed. That was one of the biggest eye-openers for them that we needed to make these improvements."
With a revamped plan in place, two 1,500-kW diesel generators were installed over a period of two years, as well as 16 closed transition automatic transfer switches and a touch-screen-controlled parallel switchgear system. The chilled water supply was concurrently upgraded with three 1,000-ton chillers and cooling towers, a free-cooling plate exchanger, a dozen pumps and just over 1,000 feet of piping. Both systems were consolidated into centralized locations and were tied into the recently updated building management control system.
The new equipment has done more than just meet the capacity needs. The generators produce fewer emissions and are more fuel efficient than the old system, and all generator testing can be conducted without affecting services to the hospital. The chilled water system is more energy efficient, and it also allows treatment rooms to quickly return to 68 F, the required setpoint to keep sensitive equipment from overheating, after room temperatures are raised to make a specific patient comfortable. This shortens the lag time between procedures.
Another unexpected benefit is that with a successful $45 million project under his belt, Tetrault and his department have earned an even higher level of respect at the hospital, and Tetrault has a seat at the table when it comes time to review budgeting requests. No longer is a half million dollar piece of equipment considered in isolation of its $100,000 impact on the HVAC and power distribution, he says. "We don't have to bend ears as much now," Tetrault says.