3/14/19

Reduce, reuse and upcycle – minor adjustments make major impact

“Do the right thing” – for patients and the environment. Facilities Services takes pride in its responsiveness to patient, employee and visitor needs while reducing our impact on the environment.

“We work to address the overall ‘disease,’ not the symptoms. We can make changes to address individual areas to make that space warmer or cooler, but sometimes there’s a larger issue to uncover. Our team digs deeper into the root cause rather than address the temperature request in front of us at that moment,” said Tom Johnson, executive director, Facilities Services.

This philosophy served as a catalyst for the most recent effort to increase energy efficiency at Carle’s main campus. Carle recently completed Ameren Illinois’ Large Facilities, those with 100,000 square feet or more, Retro Commissioning Program to assess energy usage.

“It’s like a tune-up for your car – we’re making small tweaks to realize efficiencies and energy savings,” Johnson said.

Those minor modifications translate into big environmental impact. Carle has saved 1,715,248 kWh of energy, which is the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 258 passenger vehicles driven for one year.

Overall, through retro commissioning and related projects — and energy-efficient new construction — Carle Hospital will reduce its annual energy use by more than 3.1 million kilowatt-hours and 234,000 therms (and counting). In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, those energy savings are equivalent to taking nearly 750 cars off the road for an entire year.

"Over time, the way in which buildings use energy will become less efficient," said Keith Martin, director of energy efficiency, Ameren Illinois. "Through our energy efficiency program, our efforts focus on actions that provide a payback of less than a year – helping customers to quickly earn a return on their investment.

Buildings get out of balance – just like your home. An assessment by a fresh set of eyes can set the stage for significant savings with only minor modifications.

The focus this time was on three areas for energy efficiency upgrades resulting in an annual energy savings alongside upfront savings from rebate program offerings.

  • Scheduling of building automation systems
  • Lowering boiler pressures
  • Installing LED lighting

“We’re open 24 hours a day but in reality, many areas are not used around-the-clock. We identified these ‘dark spots’ and adjusted heating and cooling schedules, reducing our energy costs without affecting the comfort of patients or employees,” Johnson said.

Facilities worked with staff to conduct a room-by-room assessment to understand unique needs and ensure comfort wasn’t sacrificed.

“Catheterization labs, for example, need to be ready all the time for emergencies, but other patient care areas like the Cancer Center see much lower activity on weekends,” Johnson said. “We made adjustments based on usage for each individual area not unlike what we do in our homes when we set schedules for when we are home and away – this is just a much larger scale.”

Additional behind-the-scenes adjustments included lowering the boiler plant pressures to reduce natural gas consumption.  “These are the type of grass roots ideas staff come up with when we focus on being energy efficient.  They find the small changes that have huge impacts.”

“This is part of who we are at Carle – we’re patient centered and employee driven. Just starting the discussion of energy efficiency with our team prompted engagement and accountability. Team members initiated other ideas for improvement as we worked throughout the buildings,” said Lynne Barnes, chief operating officer, Carle Foundation Hospital, and senior vice president, Facilities.

The more public-facing improvement includes installation of LED lighting in the north (Orchard Street) parking garage and inside the main campus buildings. LED lighting features the highest-possible energy efficiency and lowest-possible impact to the environment. LEDs use less energy and don’t require replacement as frequently as fluorescents, which can harm the environment if not disposed of properly.

“LED lighting is by far the most visible enhancement. Our initial investment in all of these projects is budget neutral, and then the energy savings continue annually,” Johnson said.

“It’s rare to see a 100 percent rate of return where we essentially pay ourselves back within a year,” Ameren person said. WHO said new equipment isn’t typically required for most of these enhancements which is appealing to companies because they can invest in other priorities and capital expenses.

“Quite simply – it’s good for patients, for the environment and for Carle,” Johnson said. “We’re able to save on our energy consumption and make things better for the environment – it’s a slam dunk.”

New construction projects such as Carle at The Fields also include LED lighting, encouraging reduction in our carbon footprint system wide. Facilities Services continues to seek additional opportunities to optimize resources at all Carle facilities.

“We continually seek ways to reduce costs and do our part to protect not only community resources but environmental as well,” he said. “We already have several additional project slated for the coming year to continue building upon our savings and reduction in our effect on the environment. It’s safe to say, we’re in it for the long-haul.”