Healthier hospitals, for a healthier Vermont
by Richard Donnelly, Strategic Planning Manager
There are 16 hospitals in the state of Vermont—each serving their community through critically needed patient care and employment opportunities. And hospitals, which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, consume two-and-a-half times as much energy as office buildings.
Over the past 15 years, Vermont's hospitals have been working with Efficiency Vermont to control and reduce their energy use wherever possible. A recent evaluation shows that thanks to these efforts, Vermont hospitals have saved over $40 million. They've achieved it by working interdepartmentally to improve technology, equipment, and processes—significantly reducing overhead costs while maintaining and in many cases improving their high standards for patient care.
Taking the patient's vital signs: establishing a baseline
Just as a person might assess their own health with a check-up, Vermont hospitals began their path to energy reduction with a diagnostic assessment of their energy use.
This process is called energy benchmarking, and it's made possible through the Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, which uses detailed data sets to help all types of businesses evaluate their energy performance by comparing it with similar facilities, nation-wide. Vermont is the first state in the nation to complete a voluntary benchmark of all its hospitals.
The path of improvement: a collaborative effort
When a person embarks on a health improvement plan, they may reach out to a number of experts to assist them—a personal trainer, a doctor, a dietician... Similarly, by assembling teams of qualified consultants including architects, hospital engineers, equipment experts, and Efficiency Vermont, hospitals have been able to create and implement energy management plans without detracting from their primary concern—patient care.
Action plans spanned a variety of energy efficiency work, including:
- Energy audit, metering, and data analysis to identify and prioritize savings opportunities
- Facilitated kaizen events toward continuous energy improvement
- Lighting redesign
- HVAC system upgrades including air handling units, rooftop units, and more
- Pumps and motors upgrades
- Retro-commissioning and fine-tuning the buildings’ technical systems, including temperature set-points, occupancy sensors, and more
- Hospital employee engagement strategies
Patient outcome: lower costs and improved performance lead to real results
The results have been impressive. Every hospital in Vermont has shown marked improvement, and several standout examples have emerged:
- Gifford Medical Center and Springfield Hospital have both achieved ENERGY STAR certification and are currently the only hospitals in New England to receive the certification in 2015.
- Central Vermont Medical Center reduced their overall energy use by 26%, and was named the Business Leader of the Year by Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP).
Most importantly, though, is the way in which this work is supporting patient care.
"These are real and impressive savings, and they are a great example of the work that all of Vermont's hospitals are doing to slow the growth of health care spending," said Bea Grause, President and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
In addition to the cost savings, energy reduction provides hospitals with other mission-aligning benefits:
- Providing comfortable and safe spaces for patients, families, and employees
- Lower polluting emissions—emissions that affect public health
- Providing leadership in their communities around environmental stewardship
We are very proud of the work our partner hospitals are doing—for their own fiscal health and for the benefit of the state as a whole.
Have you noticed any energy efficiency improvements at your local hospital? Tell us about them in the comments below.