It Saves for Hospitals to be Energy Efficient (Part 2 of 4)

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Yesterday, we started dissecting an article by Karen Minich-Pourshadi from the January/February issue of HealthLeaders magazine. The article examines how three different organizations have made energy efficiency a cornerstone of their operations.

After three years and $400 million, Minich-Pourshadi reports, Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham transitioned into its expanded facility, the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children, last August. Based on bed count, it is one of the top 10 pediatric medical centers in the country, she notes, with 332 beds and 48 NICU bassinets.

In seeking  LEED certification, the hospital would have had to invest $2-$3 million more into the facility’s construction, but a generous donor stepped forward and covered the added LEED expense, leaving Children’s free “to optimize any and all opportunities for efficiency,” Mike McDevitt, executive vice president for facilities and technology, explained.

After some numbers-crunching, McDevitt said they decided to focus “on using energy-efficient and environmentally responsible materials…such as recycled mirrors and seashells in the terrazzo floor of the hospital. It also used local materials wherever possible, selected recycled raw materials for construction, and recycled 30 percent to 40 percent of its construction project waste materials to help reduce the environmental footprint of the project.”

The goal was to get “a 6 percent to 7 percent return on every dollar over and above our normal operations over 10 to 12 years.”

The building itself was positioned to conserve energy, Minich-Pourshadi writes, with “a north-south orientation that, when paired with the structure’s large glass windows, allows plenty of natural light into the building, increasing warmth and light for the facility.”

Furthermore, she adds, “30 percent more energy-efficient mechanical systems were installed and an innovative heating and cooling system was added. The hospital’s heating and cooling mechanism collects 30,000 gallons of condensation from its air conditioning system and recycles it for irrigation and to cool equipment. The facility also uses a rooftop garden with native sedum to provide insulation and oxygenation for the building.”

Energy-efficient, less maintenance, long-term cost savings: all of these describe Children’s of Alabama’s expanded facility, which is already consuming 20 percent less energy than the old building. In fact, “the new facility is so efficient that the older structure is now getting much of its heating and cooling energy from the new one,” saving the whole campus 25 percent in raw energy costs and going beyond the 6 percent to 7 percent rate of return Children’s of Alabama originally wanted, sometimes going as high as 20 to 30 percent.

In being an environmental and financial success, McDevitt said, “This has really been a big win for us.”

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., and how its vice president of facilities and environment of care Robert Mulcahy made investing in energy a capital investment.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Children’s of Alabama’s energy-efficient design? Have you incorporated similar designs at your organization?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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