Building Operating Management

Energy Efficiency, Recycling Areas of Focus for Green Health Care Operations

One of Geisinger's largest energy-savings projects is its $5.3 million co-generation heat and power plant. By capturing and using heat generated by the plant, Geisinger should save about $1.4 million annually and halve its carbon dioxide emissions, Neuner says.

The more than two dozen projects that Geisinger has implemented over the past 12 years have cut expenses by more than $8 million. In fact, Geisinger has doubled the square footage of its campus since 1988 with no increase in electrical demand.

At Advocate Health Care, "sustainability has become a cornerstone of all our projects," says Manshum. Several relatively simple steps have helped the organization reduce energy consumption by 17 percent since 2007. One is ensuring that all building systems are properly commissioned and working. "We always want to operate at peak efficiency," Manshum says.

Employees have been instructed to turn off computers and other equipment when they're not being used. New equipment goes into sleep mode after a few minutes of not being in use.

The HVAC system also regularly prints a list of any manual overrides in place. Manshum recalls one incident in which the thermostat was over-ridden for a weekend event. While the employees involved wanted to ensure heat for the occasion, the override inadvertently remained in place for a year.

Focus on Recycling

Along with cutting energy costs, a number of health care organizations have aggressively pursued ways to "reduce, reuse and recycle." Several years ago, the recycling rate on the Cleveland Clinic's main campus ranged from about 7 to 9 percent. The organization finished 2010 with a rate topping 30 percent overall, Vernon says.

One of the most significant steps in the organization's waste reduction efforts was to work with purchasing to move from disposable to reusable or reduced packaging when possible. In fact, a reduction in waste is included in some vendor contracts. Moreover, many vendors have been instructed not to leave waste behind when they make deliveries. Often, this opens their eyes to the amount of waste they are generating and spurs them to reduce it.

Even some medical waste is being recycled. When it came to needles and syringes, it had been standard practice to dispose of both the container and contents. However, that's not always necessary. "The container isn't a threat, just the contents," Vernon says. An outside company reprocesses and redeploys the containers in the hospital.

The Christ Hospital also has focused on recycling, says Perkinson. For instance, before beginning demolition projects, a local charitable organization removes any items, such as doors, that they can reuse, refurbish, or sell. "It keeps these things out of the landfill," Perkinson says. These efforts cover 400 to 600 tons of materials each year, which has saved $500,000 to $800,000.

At Advocate, employees now recycle 97 percent of construction debris, as well as more than 25 percent of the ongoing waste stream. In 2010, Advocate kept 50 tons of waste from landfill by converting to reusable sharps containers. Medical device reprocessing, a sterilization process that allows some equipment to be reused, diverted 24,000 pounds of material from landfills. The savings totaled $1.5 million.

Continue Reading:

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Energy Efficiency, Recycling Areas of Focus for Green Health Care Operations

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  posted on 2/6/2012   Article Use Policy

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