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Improving energy efficiency in hospitals

Benchmarking and a staged approach lead to better energy performance

July 6, 2016 | Carolyn Schierhorn

When Antonio Suárez, CHFM, SASHE, joined Midland (Texas) Memorial Hospital as director of facilities services in 2010, he found an employer that already prided itself on energy conservation. The hospital was finishing a lighting retrofit that replaced T12 fluorescent tubes with T8s. A new patient tower under construction had been designed to the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code, and the central plant had been modernized and expanded for efficiency and additional capacity.

“Midland Memorial thought it was cutting-edge then when it came to energy efficiency," Suárez recalls. "What I brought to the table was the question, 'How do we know this?' We weren’t measuring."

So, the hospital began benchmarking its energy performance using the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA’s) Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free tool that allows facilities to track their energy usage and compare their energy use intensity (EUI) measurements to national averages (based on an algorithm that normalizes for climate differences, operational intensity and size).
"We learned that we were really sucking wind," Suárez says. "We had a score of 12, which means we were in the 12th percentile nationally, while the average hospital in the United States has a score of 50." Energy Star recognizes health facilities that are in the top quartile.

After this wake-up call, Midland Memorial implemented a systematic approach to reducing energy consumption. Today, the hospital has an independently verified score of 75 and recently submitted an application to the EPA for Energy Star certification.

"To paraphrase Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team, you need to have a vision, you need to have a process, and you need to have the discipline to follow the process," Suárez says, explaining the hospital's success at energy reduction. "That's what gives you outcomes."

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