All while contributing to a healthier planet it is crucial to recognize that the relationships between energy efficiency, patient comfort, employee productivity, and the prosperity of a hospital are more deeply connected than we first realize.
As Robert Fleming AIA, LEED AP, NOMA, Director of Sustainability at FCA sums up for Facility Executive, FMs often face challenging tasks like balancing between increasing energy efficiency and advocating for sustainability, all while keeping operational costs down. „We see this prominently displayed in the management and maintenance of healthcare facilities. This is why it is essential to include energy efficiency and sustainability as part of an overall holistic approach to facility management”- he adds.
An integrative approach is inevitable
Healthcare facilities consume a significant amount of energy due to their round-the-clock operations, energy-intensive equipment, and intense lighting demands. Despite the undeniable importance of energy efficiency, especially given these facilities’ unique needs, it is often treated separately from other key considerations like patient experience and employee well-being.
Given that energy costs can account for up to twice the initial investment in a building over its lifespan, it is crucial to recognize energy efficiency’s impact on long-term financial sustainability. With significant rising energy costs along with growing employee salaries and benefits, the need for an integrative approach becomes glaring.
„The relationships between energy efficiency, patient comfort, employee productivity, and the prosperity of a hospital are more interconnected than we often realize. By embracing energy-efficient practices, hospitals can enhance patient experiences and improve employee well-being, all while contributing to a healthier planet. It’s time for major hospital networks and their leaders to embrace sustainable practices and lead the way towards a greener and more efficient healthcare sector.” – Robert Fleming, Director of Sustainability at FCA
Energy efficiency strategies all come with an initial cost
Many decision-makers are interested in making their facilities more sustainable, but it can be challenging to know where to start. Energy efficiency strategies all come with an initial cost.
To navigate the complexities of energy efficiency in hospitals, a framework should be created and referenced to provide clarity and guide decision-making. Fleming introduces a pyramid model offering an intuitive hierarchy of steps, with each level building upon the previous one for maximum effectiveness.
Hospital facilities’ teams face time constraints that hinder their access to professional development and educational opportunities. Providing access to energy and sustainability education empowers these teams to make informed decisions and participate in energy-saving initiatives.
Climate action plans in hospitals often rely heavily on carbon offsets, which can be overly ambitious. Taking a human-centred, inclusive approach during the early stages allows for the creation of a larger holistic strategy with complete team involvement. This ensures that sustainability initiatives are not just pursued as one-off tactics, but integrate naturally into the considerations of teams and leadership at the facility itself.
Passive Systems Design:
Worker comfort and energy efficiency are heightened by examining a number of passive strategies, including the building envelope, and emphasizing the importance of well-insulated walls and roofs. Implementing courtyards with native plantings and thoughtful incorporation of daylight must be balanced with energy trade-offs. Considering the embodied energy of a design project as it relates to material choices and subsequent function further enhances sustainability efforts.
Active Systems and Equipment:
Once all passive strategies have been maximized, implementing energy-efficient systems and equipment is crucial to optimize energy consumption in hospitals. This step involves upgrading facilities to high-efficiency HVAC systems while adding technology like enhanced lighting controls and smart building technologies. These can significantly reduce energy demand and operational costs but require increased buy-in and funding to come to fruition.
Harnessing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, offers long-term benefits to hospitals as the price of conventional methods continues to rise. Investing in on-site renewable energy generation helps reduce reliance on coal, oil and gas-fueled power sources while contributing to a more sustainable and resilient future.
Conquering the pyramid
When transitioning a hospital or medical centre to an energy-efficient space, it’s important to start with education about the basics. The second level, dedicated to strategic planning efforts, remains the most important—not only as the first in a series of concrete steps but also as the phase informing the planning for all the other levels. Levels three through five require more intense, concrete changes that require significant leadership buy-in and financial backing.
Dedicated foremost to the care and service of the surrounding area, all steps towards energy efficiency must be made and contextualized in the broader scope of the hospital’s services to its community. This means careful phasing of each step of a potential renovation to ensure disruptions are kept to a minimum – Fleming points out.
Graphics: Facility Executive