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B. Alan Whitson

Hospitals have higher energy use for various reasons. Unlike a house, internal loads are a dominate factor in hospitals. This means what happens inside the hospital has a bigger impact upon its energy use than the climate zone where it is located. It also means hospitals have greater opportunity for controlling internal loads and, therefore, their energy costs.

Although hospitals are viewed as 24/7 operations, many areas do not operate around the clock, meaning, for example, that lights can be turned off. In areas that operate around the clock, small changes can create large savings. For example, dimming fluorescent lamps from 100 percent to 75 percent light output reduces energy use by 25 percent. Because humans can rarely distinguish between a 100 percent light level and a 75 percent light level, it is an easy transition. Take this strategy one-step further by having different light levels for daytime and nighttime. Time clocks, occupancy sensors, photo sensors, and dimmable ballast can create multiple ways to save energy by tuning light levels and turning lights down or off when no one is present.

Utilities costs vary widely among hospitals. A 2010 study by the International Facility Management Association/American Society for Healthcare Engineering revealed a significant cost spread regarding utility dollars per discharge. The cost for the 75th percentile is 77.1 percent larger than the median, which is 52.5 percent larger than the 25th percentile. The average cost is 35.5 percent more than the median. Climate and fuel cost alone cannot account for such a large spread. This translates into a large opportunity for cost savings.



The consensus among architects, engineers, and facility professional is that a new hospital can use significantly less energy than the average hospital of today. Cutting energy use by 50 percent in an existing hospital is achievable with today's technology and best practices.

Using current averages, reducing hospital energy use by 50 percent will increase a hospital's total margin by 20 percent or more.

B. Alan Whitson, RPA, is president of Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute, Portland, Ore., and teaches courses for the Healthcare Institute of International Facilities Management Association, Houston (awhitson@squarefootage.net).

For more information, see Alan Whitson's " The 50 Percent Solution to Reducing Energy Costs", hfm, November, 2012


Publication Date: Thursday, November 01, 2012

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