In today’s sustainability-minded society, we often assume that expensive alternative energies are the best way to “go green.” But through my work as Director of Facilities Management, I’ve learned that we can significantly reduce energy use by simply re-engineering our existing infrastructure.
In recognition of National Health Care Facilities and Engineering Week (October 19–24, 2014), I’d like to share how our Facilities Management team has helped the University of Vermont Medical Center go green—without spending a lot of green.
Our Impact on the Community
Hospitals and their employees assume an awful lot of responsibility in the community, especially when it comes to energy consumption. A hospital may be one of the largest employers in a region, and consequently, one of its biggest energy users.
So how much energy is required to provide outstanding patient care and support our diverse staff of doctors, nurses, accountants, chefs, programmers, scientists, engineers, and more? Consider this: in 2013, the average Vermont home consumed approximately 6,915 kWh of electricity. At the Medical Center Campus, we consumed over 3.9 million kWh of electricity—or the equivalent of 5,640 homes.
Though the task of reducing this number may seem daunting, I see an opportunity to positively impact our environment—and our community. I consider it our responsibility to become the most energy-efficient hospital possible. I also believe we can reduce energy consumption and costs while continuing to improve our already world-class care.
Our Approach to Sustainability
Facilities Management, too, has embraced a sustainability mission. In 2013, we reduced our overall electrical consumption by over 1 million kWh, or 2.5% of our total consumption at the Medical Center Campus.
Our team of highly skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and mechanical systems professionals accomplished this not by installing expensive solar arrays, windmills, or other extravagant systems, but instead by re-engineering and updating our existing infrastructure and systems.
Some of our recent projects include:
- Installing boiler controls on our three largest boilers. This has maximized the efficiency of our burners, thereby reducing our natural gas consumption by 150,000 CCF—equivalent to 150 homes.
- Converting to LED lighting in our parking lots and roadways. We’ve also started replacing our indoor fluorescent lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
- Upgrading the controls on our largest air handler. By improving the controls on our largest air handler (which is the size of a large house), we’ve maximized output while minimizing fan speed. In other words, we use less electricity to operate at maximum efficiency.
We take the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” seriously. We’ve reused our existing infrastructure without adding excessive new material, taking up more space, or spending lots of money. And while our work is far from finished, I’m excited to develop more energy saving methods for the sake of the UVM Medical Center, our community, and the environment.
Wes Pooler is the Director of Facilities Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.