It Saves for Hospitals to be Energy Efficient (Part 1 of 4)

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In talking with many healthcare executives and facility planners, HCE has heard often about the long-term benefits of sustainable, energy-efficient options for buildings and campuses. An article in the latest issue of HealthLeaders magazine by Karen Minich-Pourshadi seems to confirm this.

She writes, “As healthcare CFOs devise plans to counteract thinning reimbursements and diminishing margins, many are finding that energy-efficiency choices are helping to help solidify long-term, sustainable cost reductions.”

Mike McDevitt, executive vice president for facilities and technology at Children’s of Alabama, told her, “It does cost a bit more now to be energy efficient if you compare energy prices today to the cost of making the changes. But if you’re a betting person, you know that the energy prices will go up. So spending more today is a hedge against the future prices.”

The EPA says that “healthcare organizations spend nearly $8.8 billion on energy each year to meet patient needs,” and as the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2007 commercial buildings energy consumption survey reported, the consumption of energy by healthcare communities is “massive.”

The survey reported, “…major fuels–including electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat–used by large hospitals (those greater than 200,000 square feet) account for 458 trillion BTUs of energy, accounting for 5.5 percent of the total delivered energy used by the commercial sector.”

Why such large numbers? Experts say it has to do with the operational demands that have to be met by these organizations, often within extremely old buildings.

Think about it. Most hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s “thousands of patients, visitors, and employees consuming energy all day, every day of the year,” Minich-Pourshadi writes.

This is why so many of our readers and their facilities represent the overall trend in healthcare maintenance and construction these days. When faced with the option of short or long-term savings, they go with the energy-efficient option of long-term savings.

Minich-Pourshadi continues, “With an eye on potential savings in energy and money, some healthcare organizations are reassessing how they construct new facilities and looking for ways to modify their existing operations with minimum capital outlay.”

Children’s of Alabama is one such organization. Their 12-story hospital made energy-conservation strategies the focus of the building-planning process. Tomorrow and Friday, we’re going to look at the energy-consumption strategies Children’s of Alabama and other organizations have implemented.

In the meantime, we’d like to read your thoughts on this matter. Which energy-consumption strategies has your organization adopted? What lessons have you learned along the way? What benefits have you reaped?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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