The energy needs of healthcare establishments are unlike those of any other industry. The average hospital uses 2.5 times the energy of other commercial buildings. In fact, GreenBiz reports that US healthcare facilities spend $8.8 billion annually on energy. With energy using about half of a healthcare Facility Manager's budget, efficiencies are paramount.
Every hour of every day, hospitals run energy-intensive operations with bright lighting, cool temperatures, hot water heating, food service operations, critical airflow, surgical equipment, and more.
While all sectors benefit from reduced energy consumption (and waste), in healthcare, the need for savings cannot come at the expense of environmental quality that, if compromised, may alter patient outcomes.
These 5 innovations are changing the way healthcare facilities consume energy while enabling efficient healthcare management and better medical outcomes:
1. Healthcare Building Automation
Advancements in building automation systems empower healthcare management to optimize comfort in patient rooms, operating rooms, labs, waiting rooms, doctors' offices, and cafeterias. By controlling HVAC systems, lighting, window treatments, and more, regular hospitals can become smart hospitals, maximizing the benefit while minimizing consumption and waste.
Smart hospitals are benefitting from advanced energy management, leveraging device level energy monitoring (coupled with machine learning enabled data processing) systems to preempt malfunction, avoid costly downtime, and optimize performance of their electrical equipment and infrastructure.
2. Photovoltaic Cells
According to Navigant Research, "PV is a key solution to reduce energy costs” for healthcare facilities. Photovoltaic cells increase peak supply, protects against energy price volatility, and increase sustainability, as they create energy without emissions. For large medical campuses, it’s a no-brainer, utilizing vast roof space that’s already there and being put to no other purpose.
As solar energy conversion technology improves and medical equipment becomes more efficient, in some cases, healthcare facilities may even be able to generate energy beyond their needs – opening the possibility for them to sell excess electricity back to grid, creating a new revenue stream with which to subsidize their other operations.
3. Smart Windows
An advancement in technology can now control the tint on windows with the touch of a button. In healthcare settings, smart windows help control heat and glare to optimize the indoor climate, while minimizing the energy needed to heat and cool large spaces.
4. LED Lighting
On average, 45% of a hospital’s electrical load can be attributed to lighting. Upgrading to LED lighting in healthcare facilities reduces energy consumption and waste, as well as operating expenses.
Even more important, the gains from improved lighting extend beyond mere dollars and cents and enhance the quality of patient care. According to Gooch & Housego, such human benefits include:
- Proper lighting can help alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition related to the decrease in sunlight over the winter months
- Elimination of flickering lights, which may reduce tantrum triggers for individuals on the autistic spectrum
- Limiting blue light, which according to some research, may help patients with Alzheimer’s disease sleep better
- Dynamic lighting is one element of a multi-pronged technique to help put MRI patients at ease during the procedure
5. Hospital Design Improvements
Investing in more energy forward healthcare facility design is helping facility managers realize quick ROI and immediate energy efficiency improvements. At Seattle Children’s Bellevue Clinic, for example, the University of Washington Medical Center’s Montlake Tower Expansion, energy-reducing design innovations have been incorporated into the facility from the bottom up.
These innovations include sun shading controls, vacant room sensors, outdoor air supply with heat recovery systems, modified air delivery systems, thermal energy storage, improved air-tightness and high insulation values in windows and walls.
Results show hospitals savings $500,000-$800,000 a year in energy costs. By reimagining the way that healthcare facilities use energy, they can be both environmentally and financially sound.
Efficient Healthcare Management Requires a New Approach to Energy
In the business that is healthcare management, profit margins must be optimized and patient care must be prioritized. Doing so, based on current data, necessitates spotlighting energy cost, waste, and opportunities for efficiency.