Climate Corps 2011: Taking the Temperature of Hospitals' HVAC

EDF Climate Corps

Climate Corps 2011: Taking the Temperature of Hospitals' HVAC

This summer, I have a unique role as the only EDF Climate Corps fellow seeking energy efficiency opportunities specifically in hospitals and surgery centers. I've been tasked to seek out energy savings at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the leading healthcare services provider in the U.S. operating 165 hospitals and 105 surgery centers. And the opportunity is huge. Healthcare buildings consume 9.1 percent of total fuel consumption in U.S. commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Last year's EDF Climate Corps fellow at HCA, Nick Fassler, focused his efforts on lighting retrofits. As many hospitals use over 100 types of lamps and fixtures, the project entailed scrutinizing the results of lighting audits at four different hospitals representative of the company's portfolio.

He ultimately recommended lighting retrofits at facilities nationwide that could cut 82 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, saving $7.8 million in electricity costs and 52,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. Over the lifetime of the project, this could save the company $14.7 million in net operating costs.

Based in part on Nick's contributions, HCA's sustainability board and executive team is developing a staged lighting retrofit program across the organization. The program is expected to begin rolling out in late 2011.

Aware of the success of last year's lighting retrofit project, I set out to find savings elsewhere. The folks at HCA helped me identify some projects around HVAC and water heating. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, HVAC and water heating systems consist of about 52 percent and 15 percent of total energy consumption in typical healthcare buildings, respectively.

Shortly after arriving at HCA, I began gathering the historical energy data of all HCA facilities and several pilot projects as well as data for weather normalization. I've found a couple of interesting opportunities so far.

The first entails looking at how modular boiler heating systems can save energy and lower costs. And the second involves examining a new concept around a Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) system HCA installed into a warehouse application. This project is particularly exciting, as it's one of the first times VRV has been used in a warehouse setting.

Moving forward, I will partner with HCA's Energy and Water Taskforce to analyze the potential reduction in energy consumption by installing these two advanced systems and quantifying the cost and benefits for each. HCA has provided superior direction in helping me make the most of my time here so far, and I'm looking forward to further exploring my unique opportunity in the growing healthcare industry.