Hospitals turn to energy efficiency to cut costs

As hospital leaders look to reduce costs without impacting quality of care, experts suggest they consider a largely untapped area: energy efficiency.

Hospitals are among the most resource-intensive commercial buildings because they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and require energy to power lights and surgical equipment, according to an article in Crain's Chicago Business. Energy costs can reach millions of dollars in large hospital systems. Yet, few hospitals consider the incremental savings possible by going green.

"It's a largely untapped, competitive edge," Dan Doyle, chairman of Grumman Butkus Associates Ltd., an energy-efficient engineering firm based in Evanston, Illinois, told Crain's.

One of the biggest energy suckers is lighting so one of the first steps hospitals can take is to turn off unneeded lights. More expensive and complicated steps involve installing motion sensors to switch off lights when rooms aren't in use or fans that can slow airflow in the unoccupied rooms, the article states.

NorthShore University Health System, also based in Evanston, spends roughly $20 million a year on utilities for its four hospitals, according to Crain's. To cut costs, its taking steps to make its operating rooms green by replacing all lights with LED bulbs that don't emit as much heat and are reducing the number of times per hour the air in the rooms cycles during evening hours, Crain's reports.

Hospitals can also find other ways to save 30 percent of their annual energy costs by implementing guidelines suggested in U.S. Department of Energy's "Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Healthcare Facilities," FierceHealthcare previously reported.

And healthcare organizations have found other ways to go green, such as conserving water and recycling toxic goods, like batteries.

To learn more:
- read the Crain's Chicago Business article
- here's the guide