Take these steps to a green healthcare initiative & energy reduction

It's not a "step-one-and-done" process, but the ROI can have everyone seeing green

 The term "going green" isn't new. For more than a decade, businesses have embraced the idea of environmentalism — and with good reason. There are countless benefits to a green initiative that help save the planet and a company's bottom line.

However, despite the growing adoption, there are very few hospitals that have made the transition to a green facility. The process of implementing a green initiative isn't a "step one and done" solution, but the end results are well worth the work.

Primary obstacles in going green
One of the most common remarks I hear from customers when discussing sustainability is the lack of funding. Hospitals are strapped for capital. Each department has a laundry list of requests, all requiring a slice of the budget. Getting money set aside is very difficult, and facility directors are consistently challenged to find innovative ways to use available funds to improve hospital efficiency.

In addition to budgetary issues, subpar preventative maintenance programs can serve as a roadblock. There are several hidden costs that can easily be overlooked if a PM program isn't implemented correctly. In addition, facilities stand to waste energy and limit the life of equipment if PM isn't fully or properly executed.

It is possible to turn these obstacles into opportunities by developing an internal plan by using programs and tools available from energy providers and services such as Energy Treasure Hunt, a voluntary program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-EPA. Many of these programs will produce projects that have a return on investment your administration will not be able to pass up.

Plant the seeds of a green initiative
Facility directors need to take the proper steps to overcome these obstacles and work to create a comprehensive initiative that encompasses all facility operations. Below are four ways that will help kick-start your hospital toward becoming a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective facility:

1. Build a team of knowledgeable employees with a vision of the end goal. The individuals on your team will greatly impact the success of your green program (or lack thereof). It is important that each employee understand the objectives as well as his or her own role in the process. In addition, each team member must be an agent for change. Each person must embrace the vision and commit to the new protocols and procedures.

2. Establish a baseline. As with any major project, it is important to assess where your facility stands today before you can build an effective plan for the future. Take an inventory of your assets. Start with a comprehensive, onsite assessment to identify what equipment you have and how it is currently operating. Also, be sure to note any green programs that are currently in place and how they are running.

3. Create a strategic implementation plan. It is important to create both a short- and long-term plan that aligns with the hospital's overall goals and mission. A successful green initiative should take a holistic approach, encompassing energy, water consumption and waste management, but it won't help in the long run if the facilities department takes on an unattainable workload. So, for the short term, find a good starting place that is a top priority for the hospital. Then work to develop a long-term plan that eventually encompasses all three areas. Once the plan is implemented, track, measure and report progress.

When creating the plan, evaluate how each of the components in the below checklist fit into both short- and long term goals:

Energy
● Implement efficient surgical task lighting.
● Evaluate setback of temperature and airflow settings at night.
● Retrocommission HVAC controls and fully utilize a Building Automation System.
● Reevaluate HVAC commissioning.
● Evaluate steam traps for repair or replacement.
● Insulate hot water system equipment and piping.
● Replace air handling unit AHU filters regularly.
● Install variable frequency drives on pumps and motors.

Water
● Establish a baseline for current water consumption.
● Evaluate steam traps for repair or replacement.
● Insulate hot water system equipment and piping.
● Maximize cooling tower efficiency by improving water quality.
● Eliminate fixture leaks
● Install low-flow flush fixtures where practical
● Evaluate and optimize faucet water flows.
● Eliminate equipment and piping leaks.

Waste
● Establish a waste minimization committee.
● Conduct a waste assessment.
● Recycle electronic waste.
● Implement a facility-wide battery recycling program.
● Develop and/or enhance the facility's recycling program.
● Maximize construction and demolition recycling pertinent to daily operations.
● Reduce regulated medical waste RMW generation.
● Reduce paper waste with sustainable printing.

4. Ensure that PM programs are fully implemented. As previously mentioned, if properly implemented, PM programs can save hospitals large amounts of capital, not only from an operations perspective, but from an energy one as well. Such programs should apply to all building systems and components and needs to be evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are running correctly.

Cultivate an energy treasure hunt
Energy Star recommends a process called an Energy Treasure Hunt. The Energy Treasure Hunt also has four distinct phases that will guide you to successful reduction in energy usage:

1. Preparation: A huge key to success is to obtain buy-in from your facility's leadership to obtain their support. Gather data on current energy usage and costs, equipment specifications, and operating parameters and explain that the end goal of the energy Treasure Hunt is to shave energy costs, which in turn will make the facility greener.

2. Pre-training: In this phase you will confirm with your facility team leaders their roles and responsibilities during the Energy Treasure Hunt event. Take this opportunity to convince your team of the importance of the project to the facility.

3. Three-day Onsite Event: Your teams identify and quantify energy-saving opportunities during an onsite three-day event. During the event, tours of the site are undertaken by several teams with the goal of identifying energy reduction opportunities. These opportunities are summarized and presented for management review.

4. Follow-up: This final stage involves development of a schedule for pursuing projects to capture the energy reduction opportunities identified during the Energy Treasure Hunt.

The faster a green initiative plan is implemented, the sooner hospitals are able to minimize their environmental impact while providing quality service and cutting costs in the process. The information, resources and expert providers needed are readily available, so take the necessary steps now toward improving your hospital's sustainability. Information on Energy Star programs can be found at www.energystar.gov.

About the author
Darwin L. Crawford is regional director of operations-technical services for ABM Healthcare Support Services. He has more than 30 years of plant operations management, environmental services management and executive leadership experience.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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