Cheap energy has been one of the pillars of the U.S. economy, so energy-conservation innovations have typically emerged in other countries where these costs are higher and there might be more incentive to give new ideas and technologies a try, Cooper says, explaining that, in the U.S., its easy to spot who the innovating pioneers are: Theyre the ones with arrows in their backs.
Tom DeBoer, chief engineer for the Mayo Clinic campus in downtown Rochester, Minn., agrees that utility bills only account for about 1% of the campus operating costs. However, with some 8 million square feet to heat, cool and power in 26 buildings covering four city blocks, that 1% adds up to tens of millions of dollars, he says.
While Mayo is only now beginning to seriously consider renewable energy sources, DeBoer says the institution has a long history of working to conserve energy. The most visible manifestation of this is Mayos practice of energy cogeneration, which involves taking steam heat created to turn electricity-producing turbines and reusing it to warm buildings on the Mayo campus.
We capture a tremendous amount of heat, DeBoer says. And were about twice as efficient as a typical utility.
According to DeBoer, a typical utility will cogenerate about 30% of its energy, but Mayowhich has been perfecting these methods since 1927cogenerates about 60% to 65% of its electrical power helping reduce its reliance on utility companies and saving money in the process. This efficiency helps Mayo produce 30% to 35% of its own energy at a cost of about 2 cents to 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour, DeBoer says, noting that energy purchased from the local utility costs 6.5 cents to 8.5 cents a kilowatt hour.
On a smaller scale, the Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Eugene, Ore., was designed from the start with energy efficiency in mind. The four-story building, which opened last October, cost about $20 million to build. Thomas Wuest, president of Slocum Orthopedics, says environmental and energy-conservation features added about $1 million to $2 million to the final bill.
Architect Whitney Churchill with Fort Collins, Colo.-based Neenan Co. says initial costs prohibited the installation of a desired solar power system, but the building is designed for convenient retrofitting for solar power in the future if circumstances change.
The facility has a variety of features including reflective roofing, high-efficiency glass and light fixtures with sensors that activate one to three bulbs depending on the amount of sunlight coming into a room (See illustration, p. 30). Also, heat pulled from the air-conditioning system is used to warm therapy pools, Churchill says.
Located in a highly visible location on one of Eugenes main streets, Coburg Road, Churchill says a zoning variance was needed to orient the new building east to west in such a way to mitigate the impact of sunlight. City ordinances require buildings on Coburg to front the street, but Churchill says an exception was required to twist the building to lessen sun exposure while also letting sunlight pour into waiting rooms and other common areas.
An early energy analysis indicates that these measures will pay off. While Slocum Orthopedics had been paying $1.69 per square foot on energy at its old spaces, which totaled 32,000 square feet, its now spending $1.06 per square foot at its new 78,000-square-foot space, or a projected savings of 37% per square foot.
While healthcare organizations report that utilities account for only 1% of their costs, literature from Kaiser Permanente in California cites a February 2007 article in the healthcare journal Lancet stating that healthcare accounts for 11% of all commercial energy use in the U.S.
Kaiser goes on to say it is taking steps to lower that amount and, so far, conservation efforts have resulted in annual savings of $10 million in the past five years.
The whole industry needs to change, says Tom Cooper, environmental design and research principal for Kaiser. I dont think its just a feel-good thing at Kaiser Permanente. Part of it is the business model we have and the culture of the company.
Kaisers Cooper says the reasons for exploring conservation go beyond both economics and altruism. He says global warming and environmental degradation are public health hazards, so the healthcare industry needs to do what it can to help solve or not contribute to the problem. To that end, Kaiser Permanente is participating in the Global Health and Safety Initiative with more than a dozen other healthcare organizations to share best environmental practices and broaden the market for cleaner energy.
Cooper, who chairs Kaiser Permanentes High Performance Buildings Committee or green buildings group, says he is excited about a new development hes researching called displacement ventilation, which may not only save on energy but also could help with infection control. The concept is simple, Cooper says. Instead of bringing in air through the ceiling, it would come in low on the wall. With this setup, Cooper says the air doesnt need to be cooled as much and ventilation fans can operate at a lower velocity because it doesnt need to be driven down into the room.
He says Kaiser also is using energy cogeneration and energy audits to determine where equipment can be retrofitted to enhance energy conservation, and that reducing water consumption is also explored because of the high costs of pumping and heating.
With energy costs at their current levels, Kaisers Cooper says such conservation projects pay for themselves in two to three years. One way the organization has found to lower energy use, Cooper says is through cool roof strategies. To that end, Kaiser Permanente has installed more than 50 acres of reflective roofing surfaces across its system to reduce air-conditioning costs.