You can obtain a million dollars without a major capital campaign
By Joy Daughtery Dickinson, Executive Editor
How would you like to save your facility a million dollars annually without any major capital money being spent? Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, accomplished that feat by simply purchasing a modern control system for its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system that helped it to reduce its energy use by 30%.
Like many healthcare facilities, Bethesda North had undergone many renovations and expansions over the years, moving from 150,000 square feet to a million square feet. Each time the facility expanded, it typically added an air handling unit to serve the new parts of the buildings. The result was freezing cold temperatures in the lobby on one side of the building.
"The poor people at the registration desk were wearing coats," says Rich Hertlein, manager of engineering and maintenance at Bethesda North Hospital. The hospital hired a consultant: Dan Buchanan of Pathian in Cincinnati (http://pathian.com). Buchanan identified the problem as the "stack effect," similar to the effect from a chimney. When there is a vast difference in temperature inside a building and outside, the top of the building is at positive pressure, and the bottom is a negative pressure. The result is that air gets sucked out of the building, Hertlein says.
Instead of buying new air handling units and new chillers, the hospital staff learned how to operate the existing units better. "A modern control system allows us to give a common signal, or orchestrate the operation of all the different air handling units, so they operate in unison instead of against each other," he says.
Once the hospital was able to control the amount of air being released to the outside, it was able to better control the amount of air that was pulled in and conditioned. "That's where the major cost savings and energy reduction has come," Hertlein says.
Hospitals and surgery center leaders are learning that reducing energy use and other environmental efforts can result in significant cost savings. Beaumont Health System in Detroit reports savings hundreds of thousands of dollars by using the Japanese "kaizen" approach that targets efficiency, quality, and productivity.1 Kaizen is a process-improvement initiative by a group of staff members, sometimes with the help of outside experts, who look at every piece of facility operations as they look for inexpensive, easy ways to improve efficiency, reduce waste, and boost quality.1 Beaumont has environmental kaizen teams made up of staff from various department as well as third-party staff who work in facility management. Every month, different people are selected to serve on teams that walk inside and outside of Beaumont's three hospitals and surgery center. They look at every aspect of operations to see if water and utility costs can be reduced. They look at specific areas and educate staff there about changes. For example, the system found that replacing T12 light bulbs with T8 bulbs, which are more energy-efficient, in several areas saved about half a million dollars annually.1 Inexpensive timers allow coffee pots to automatically start one hour before employees arrive and turn off when they leave. The estimated annual savings is $34,000.1 Here are some of their other changes:
• Reduced items in surgical packs.
All 40 custom surgical packs were reviewed over three days, "and during that time we had nurses and surgical technologist from each specialty review their specific pack," says Patricia Bechtel Cady, BSN, RN, CNOR, ONC, nurse clinician in the operating room at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI. "It allowed the OR staff to take responsibility and give input as to what goes in the packs."
The hospital deleted products from the packs that were not being used and put in the trash. "We used the 80% rule: If you use the items 80% of the time, then it was to stay in the packs," Bechtel Cady says.
• Increased recycling from 40 tons a month to 120 tons a month.
The increase in recycling translates into $80,380 in avoided costs associated with not paying for dumping charges at the landfill and an additional savings of $53,484 from recycling, says Geraldine Drake, NCIDQ, LEED green associate, interior design program and standards manager, real estate development and planning at Jones Lang LaSalle at Beaumont Health System. The system spent about $100,000 for recycling containers and carts.
Bechtel Cady said staff members at the Beaumont West Bloomfield Ambulatory Surgery Center are recycling many materials. These include sterilization wrap, plastics, balanced salt solution (BSS) glass bottles for eye cases, cardboard, plastics, and batteries. "They also have the reprocessing bins at their facility for reprocessing of single use devices [SUDs]," Bechtel Cady said. (For information on how another hospital system saved with recycling, see story, right.)
• Reduced water consumption.
When staff members were washing their hands at sinks, approximately four to five gallons of water were used per minute because the faucets ran continuously. Food pedals were installed and reduced the average amount of water used to 1.5 gallons per minute when someone is using the sink.1
The Kaizen teams realized that the hospital system's irrigation systems were watering rocks and sidewalks and overwatering shaded areas. The teams redirected and cut back on water use in those areas. Also, an inexpensive water-collection system helped. Implementing these changes helps the hospital system save more than 468,000 gallons of water every year.1
Communication is a critical piece of the cost savings, say those involved in Beaumont's efforts.1 For example, members a kaizen team had removed some light bulbs that they decided were unnecessary. A maintenance employee replaced them.
Also, ensure your efforts don't compromise job performance, employee comfort, or operational standards, say leaders of the Beaumont effort.1
- Staton G, Winokur K. 5 lessons from the Japanese "kaizen" approach to sustainability. Dec. 3, 2013. Accessed at http://bit.ly/1eN3wnu.
- The American Society for Healthcare Engineering outlines many energy-saving strategies on its recently expanded Sustainability Roadmap website at sustainabilityroadmap.org.