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Even though energy wasn't a main consideration for the FIP at its inception, that doesn't mean McCoole and the Facilities Resource Group ignored energy efficiency. Indeed, in 2008, the team had set a three-year goal of a system-wide 5 percent reduction. Part of this initiative included entering all of the organization's space into the Energy Star Portfolio Manager to set baselines for improvement. From fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2011, the Facilities Resource Group, partly on the strength of operational changes and HVAC controls upgrades, helped Ascension facilities reduce energy use 5.6 percent and avoid $10.1 million in energy costs.
"Before, there had been no central tracking or reporting on energy," says McCoole. "We began to get a lot of questions and there was a lot of variability in the ministries in what they were doing. Our leadership wanted to make clear our energy policy."
Over the next two years, with the help of a $3 million T12 lighting retrofit, the team reduced energy another 1.5 percent and avoided another $7.3 million in costs. Additionally, in 2011, Ascension joined President Obama's Better Buildings Challenge – one of only two health care systems to be a charter member. (Cleveland Clinic Foundation is the other.) Ascension pledges to reduce energy use by 20 percent across all its facilities by 2020.
"The Better Buildings Challenge is an exciting opportunity," says Scher. "We'd completed our initial goal, and wanted to take our efficiency program further. This gives us an opportunity to double down on our first successes."
McCoole says the Challenge is also a great opportunity to lead: "The Challenge is not just for health care organizations," he says. "But it helps us understand how other organizations are approaching efficiency. We have a responsibility as huge energy users – health care is the second highest market segment in terms of energy use – to be efficient."
These energy initiatives have been part of a grander, concurrent environmental mission. To further standardize reporting and best practices, the Facilities Resource Group also developed its environmental stewardship program, asking each ministry to report quarterly on nine categories of sustainability, based on Practice Greenhealth's sustainability dashboard. Additionally, the Facilities Resource Group sets an annual system-wide environmental goal. The first year it was simply to adopt the goals of the Better Buildings Challenge. This year, it's to improve education and communication regarding local environmental initiatives. Scher says the team also asks the ministries to develop two local goals each in areas in which the ministry thinks it can have the most impact. Some examples of these goals include consolidating or establishing green teams within a ministry, reducing vehicle idling, reducing bottled water use, and using recyclable "sharps" containers.
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