Co-Gen Plants Can Help Health Care Facilities Stay Online

By Marina Dishel  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Hospitals Look Past Codes To Set Power Reliability MinimumsPt. 2: NFPA 110's Fuel Requirements Can Help Guide Backup Power Plan For HospitalsPt. 3: UPS Backup, Automatic Transfer Switches Can Help Keep Health Care Facilities IT, Imaging Equipment OnlinePt. 4: This Page

Co-Gen Plants Provide Greater Independence

The only way hospitals can achieve true power reliability is to generate their own. Currently, a number of hospitals, including three in New York City alone, have on-site, co-generation (co-gen) facilities, a strategy that provides the hospital with more independence from the utility and minimizes susceptibility to an extended crisis.

While these plants don't typically generate 100 percent of a hospital's required power, they do produce enough to sustain the operation of major hospital functions during an outage and are used not only during a crisis, but also to reduce the utility bill during normal operations.

Building a co-gen plant can be very costly, however, and requires a major campus with a substantial load (typically 2 to 3 million sq. ft.) and an appropriate electrical and thermal load profile to justify it. Running a life cycle cost analysis will help determine if a co-gen facility is financially beneficial for any hospital.

— Marina Dishel

MEP Systems Movin' On Up

Until now, MEP design typically included hiding mechanical equipment or tucking it below grade, away from the primary real estate of a hospital's above-grade floors. And yet it's possible to knock out an entire emergency backup system by putting equipment in a place that isn't waterproof.

In fact, during last year's Hurricane Sandy, the bottom floors of one New York City mega-hospital were flooded, shutting down all MEP systems, including the hospital's emergency power. Now, in the aftermath of Sandy, 100-year and 500-year flood planes are being re-drawn and best practices are changing.

In new buildings, electrical service feeds, medical gas cylinders, equipment and fuel oil pumps should ideally be located above the 500-year flood plane (above grade), while electric service and emergency generator plants should be located on separate floor levels. To further ensure reliability of the infrastructure, it is recommended not to locate vertical risers on the building's perimeter.

But, short of the ability to renovate or build anew, relocating existing MEP systems above the new flood levels can be a very costly process that requires the hospital to give up precious real estate. In these cases, a thorough analysis will be important to determine the most appropriate option for the hospital. Sometimes it may prove to be feasible to waterproof the below grade rooms by providing a "bathtub" construction, i.e. installing a real marine door gasket and closing all potential openings.

— Marina Dishel

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  posted on 9/18/2013   Article Use Policy

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