Energy and the healthcare sector

This article is a slightly re-written assignment I had to write for my Certficate in Sustainable Energy Solutions at Pinchot University. Hope you will like it !

Hospitals and clinics are very energy intensive, due to the equipment used and the temperatures settings. As thus, it is estimated that such buildings typically consume 2.5 times more energy per square foot than commercial buildings.

in the United States, the healthcare sector is spending $10 billion on energy annually. Savings could exceed $5.4 billion over five years and $15 billion over 10 years. It is time for hospitals to do their part.

Healthcare facilities can not continue on polluting our common air, water and soil by their operations. This will require a holistic approach. A PG&E study showed that halving energy consumption in hospitals can be done. In Wisconsin, a whole health complex became Zero Net Energy, producing as much electricity as it consumes over a year.

Efforts should entail insulation from the outside, as to not disturb daily staff operations or the lives of the patients. Windows will be replaced as well for argon filled double glazing models. Super-efficient materials or green roofs could also be used to insulate the roofs of facilities. This will lead to using smaller HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) units and will be completed by solar electricity generation (photovoltaic panels) and hot water.

Increasing the building efficiency and adding renewables is only two sides of the job. This should require also switching to more efficient lights, using occupation sensors to cut on unnecessary lights and heating, among others. Such options entail installing smart energy meters per service and training the staff.

Water usage should not be left unaddressed. Leaks should be plugged, waterless urinals as well as water saving fixtures for showers and faucets should be installed. Rainwater should be collected to water local gardens and and their numerous carbon-sucking trees during the dryer summer months.

To conclude, waste management should also be tackled and improved by using best practices. Sorting out waste between what can be composted, recycled or safely burn in a partnering local waste-to-energy facility. The compost should be used in neighbouring gardens or could be sold.

These tremendous efforts will pay off as it shall save money and improve the well-being of both dedicated staff and patients. Eventually, savings will also allow to provide a less expensive service to patients while improving quality.

Image credits: Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, WA

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