Patrick Chambers, a project executive with the Hammes Co. in Denver, says Energy Star can help provide a strategy for achieving energy reduction targets.
Chambers says pursuing Energy Star and LEED certification is becoming a popular trend, and Hammes is involved with Energy Star on multiple levels—either as the developer or owner of healthcare properties or as the project manager for its clients.
Hammes has just finished a medical office building and the new Issaquah (Wash.) campus of Swedish Medical Center outside of Seattle, where Chambers says energy efficiency was “a significant goal from the outset.”
“They set aggressive targets,” he says, explaining how a typical hospital may consume 200 to 210 kBTUs per square foot, but the goal at Issaquah was 150 kBTUs. “We're in the process of verifying if we met those goals.”
Phillip Risner, network engineer and senior project manager for the Seton Healthcare Family in Central Texas, says all of the 10 Seton hospitals participate in the program—including one high-profile facility that has failed to achieve Energy Star certification.
Seton's Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin made history by becoming the first hospital to be certified LEED platinum. But, according to Energy Star, it doesn't make the cut.
Dell opened in 2007, and has reduced its energy use by about 15% since then, Risner says. But some of the innovations the facility implemented, such as capturing and using “waste” heat from a local energy plant, don't score any points on the Energy Star scale.
“We're doubling our efficiency, but it's not reflected in our score,” Risner says, explaining that—if certain changes were made to the Energy Star scale—Dell Children's would have a score in the 80 to 85 range. “That's my take on it.”
Instead, it only received a well-above-average-but-still-way-short-of-certification score of 58. “Our (LEED) platinum rating was primarily the result of the way we got our energy,” Risner says. “And we have consistently been very close to the energy we thought we'd be consuming.”
He adds that Dell Children's is constantly improving its lighting systems and accompanying occupancy sensors that dim or shut off lights in empty rooms.
One system that is finally working as designed adjusts the amount of electric lighting to get brighter or dimmer depending on the amount of natural daylight coming in.
“It never worked from day one,” Risner says. “We finally got it fixed a couple of months ago.”
Because Dell Children's is about three times as large as the facility it replaced, Risner is reluctant to make comparisons between the old and new facilities in terms of energy used and dollars saved. Instead, he just says, “We believe we are 20% better than a good office building.”
He adds that Seton is part of the 75-hospital Ascension Health network and all of its facilities participate in Energy Star—whether or not they pursue certification. “Environmental stewardship is important to the leadership of both Seton and Ascension,” Risner says. “The dollar savings are part of that, but being good environmental stewards is also important.”
Gundersen Lutheran in LaCrosse, Wis., is another health system known for energy innovation—including a project that captures and uses waste methane from a local brewery—that also hasn't pursued Energy Star certification.
“We like the EPA's Energy Star program, but it hasn't been a priority for us,” says Gundersen spokesman Chris Stauffer. “We've done our own baseline testing. We already have our own measurements. We just need to improve.”
Improvements to Gundersen's energy portfolio planned for the near future include installing a wind turbine and generating energy from landfill gasses, Stauffer says, adding that Energy Star is a good place to start for organizations that are about to launch an energy-efficiency program.
But “they don't account for everything” in its rating scale, Stauffer says, and there is also the concern that some organizations may grow complacent after achieving certification.