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As the Facilities Resource Group collects energy data and standardizes environmental practices, it's always keeping an eye out across the ministries for good ideas. Take, for example, the energy-saving initiative at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. Damian Skelton, vice president of real estate for Saint Thomas Health, says he was one of the biggest skeptics when Ascension first set its 5 percent goal in 2008. It was the height of the financial meltdown, and Skelton says, "I was the biggest whiner on the conference calls. ‘How are we supposed to do that without any resources?'"
So Skelton hired an energy consultant and asked for help meeting the goal, which Skelton says "is like hiring a manager and telling him to win the World Series." End goals are nice, but there wasn't a defined path to get there. Thankfully, there was plenty of room for improvement, as the hospital was benchmarked at an Energy Star score of 17.
Skelton and his energy consultant did a retrocommission and identified what was working and what wasn't. "What we discovered is that we really didn't understand how little the building automation system and energy management systems were working for us." These days, the hospital has gotten much more sophisticated about how it monitors its energy use – even on an hourly basis. "We look at an hourly weather forecast and turn up or down the chillers based on predictions," says Skelton. "We even look at predicted cloud cover."
Baptist Hospital's Energy Star score is now 72 and it's saving nearly $50,000 a month from when it started, according to Skelton. The idea of daily, and even hourly, energy monitoring is a success story that caught McCoole's eye. And it's one of the reasons McCoole and Scher are working to put together a list of preferred engineers and consultants to make retrocommissioning a best practice across the entire organization.
"Standardizing best practices is how our small group brings value to the whole organization," says McCoole. "Commissioning has risen to the level of being standard practice. The key to new projects is commissioning, and the key to old projects is ongoing commissioning. We put a tremendous amount of importance on it."
According to Skelton, Wild and other facility managers in the Ascension system, the work the Facilities Resource Group is doing in regards to commissioning specifically but all best practices in general is having a huge effect. "Hospitals often do what they've done for the last 30 years and don't change operating procedure at all," says Wild. "The Facilities Resource Group gives us the needed tweaks and lots of support. They help us overcome our own inertia."
Skelton concurs: "The Facilities Resource Group helps us meet the organization's standards and best practices. They help us leverage the strengths of Ascension across the whole system. They make sure we're not out here alone."
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