Hospitals have cut use of fossil fuels, but not electricity

Hospitals have cut their use of fossil fuel for their energy needs in recent years, but they still rely on electricity.

That's the conclusion of Chicago-based engineering consultant Grumman/Butkus Associates, which has surveyed hospitals on the topic for the past 20 years.

Hospitals in 2013 used an average of 248,456 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per square foot (electricity plus natural gas) at a cost of $3.27 per square foot, according to its latest survey. That compares to 2012, when hospitals used 235,731 BTUs per square foot at $3.09 per square foot, the lowest cost since 2005.

Grumman/Butkus concluded that the harsh winter in the Midwest in 2013 contributed to the uptick in energy use. The overall energy usage by hospitals has been in the range of about 230,000 BTUs and 270,000 BTUs since the late 1990s. Water consumption has dropped to about 50 gallons per square foot from 70 gallons per square foot about a decade ago.

Hospitals have aimed to reduce their energy consumption in recent years as a way to improve their bottom lines, with some institutions vying to cut their costs by as much as 30 percent.

Organizations also report some modest success in reducing their carbon footprints. In 2012 and 2013, they expended below 60 pounds of carbon dioxide per square foot, the first time that has been reported in the Grumman/Butkus survey.

"Hospitals have been investing in efficiency measures and making progress, but have much further to go," Grumman/Butkus Chairman Daniel L. Doyle told CSE Magazine.

Electrical energy reduction measures, such as lighting retrofits, are offset by the introduction of more electronic imaging equipment and fully digital recordkeeping, according to Doyle, And, he said, the downward trend in water usage reflects a movement to eliminate city-water-cooled equipment, as well as the use of low-flow and occupancy-based plumbing fixtures. 

To learn more:
- check out the Grumman/Butkus report
- read the CSE Magazine article

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