Hospitals are very large energy consumers. Open 24 hours a day, they are constantly occupied, putting great demand on their lighting, heating and cooling system. Add to that medical procedures and patient care that require production of a large volume of hot water for sterilization and laundry.
Understandably, patients and medical treatment receive budget priority in a hospital. Building maintenance, therefore, may be sacrificed. What’s broken gets fixed. But preventative steps aren’t taken. That’s why so many older hospitals have leaky windows and old and inefficient heating and cooling systems.
We found a good example at a 250,000 square-foot Detroit hospital, built in 1929. The facility cooled rooms using inefficient window air conditioner units, rather than central air conditioning. The AC units were cut into a Plexiglas frame. The hospital tried to plug drafts with a pink Styrofoam material applied in the cracks. It was a highly ineffective approach.
We approach hospitals the same way we do universities: Collect and analyze data, reduce energy, produce on-site energy, and ensure that the cost-savings go to the facility.
We found that replacing the windows, alone, would reduce the hospitals chilling and heating requirement by nearly 200 tons. **<<Can we provide perspective on what this means with some sort of equivalent eg…enough to heat and cool an x size building>>
After fixing the windows and upgrading the AC, the next step is to consider the best way for the hospital to produce energy. Because of the nature of its energy load – the balance between electricity and thermal needs – the hospital could not be 100% energy self-sufficient. But a 5-MW combined heat and power system could serve more than three-quarters of its energy requirement, and meet its peak demand.
Other features we designed for the hospital’s new energy plant are worth noting too. The system is highly efficient and flexible, with natural gas-fired micro-turbines grouped together strategically to match the electric and thermal demand in various parts of the building. Rooftop solar arrays, paid for in part through state incentives, also supply some of the electricity.
With much of its energy supplied onsite, the hospital is able to offset 75-85% of its utility bill. With new windows, an efficient, central HVAC system, and combined heat and power, the hospital gains significant savings.