Green Column: Helping hospitals
embrace energy savings

October 11, 2012 10:33 am Views: 121
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Energy intensity in Canada’s health services sector is the second highest of all commercial and institutional facilities according to a 2005 Natural Resources Canada report, and it comes as no surprise because our treatment and care facilities often require extremely high levels of energy to power diagnostic and emergency medical equipment, and other vital health service machinery on a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week basis. It is estimated our national health care energy bill exceeds $1 Billion annually.

Rising utility costs are once again prompting a growing number of Canada’s over 3,500 health care facilities and their facility managers to turn their attention to ways in which they can reduce their reliance upon fossil fuels. Many are turning to ENERGY STAR for assistance.

ENERGY STAR is the international symbol of energy efficiency and in Canada, is administered, promoted and monitored by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency.

Potential products must pass through stringent testing and prove to be among the top 25 per cent of all makes and models on the market in terms of energy efficiency to be recognized under the program and awarded the famous blue symbol.

Those purchasing qualified products save money because the products use less energy than conventional alternatives yet offer the same or better performance. From an environmental perspective, improving energy efficiency reduces air emissions that contribute to smog and climate change.

The symbol currently appears on approximately 50 types of products such as household electronics, kitchen and laundry appliances and light bulbs. While many may be familiar with these products for the home, there are tremendous opportunities for our health care facilities to embrace ENERGY STAR as part of an overall environmental stewardship initiative focusing on cost reduction and energy-savings. For example, there are qualified products for use in health care kitchens, cafeterias, kitchenettes, office spaces, and common areas such as waiting rooms and washrooms.

The program encompasses a range of activities that have led to the development of industry-accepted energy-efficient technical specifications. By purchasing qualified appliances and equipment, an organisation can demonstrate commitment to energy reduction and environmental leadership.

They can also engage in the ENERGY STAR Health Care Energy Leadership Program (HELP), a new initiative to help them along the greening path. With support from Natural Resources Canada, HELP is delivered by My Sustainable Canada (MSC), and the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care (the Coalition), two of Canada’s leading non-profit environmental stewardship groups.

MSC and the Coalition, are working with forward-thinking executives, facility operators, food and laundry service managers, and other sustainability champions to help them better understand the their potential to reduce energy consumption, educate staff, clients and volunteers, and turn energy dollars into health care dollars for improved care delivery.

Participants in the voluntary HELP initiative will be able to take advantage of a number of no cost educational and logistical components including webinars and training, ‘Spot the ENERGY STAR Opportunities’ walkthroughs at the Coalition’s “Getting to Green” workshop host sites, sample RFP language, training on the online Simple Savings Calculator and help in building business cases for the purchase of qualified appliances.

Any organization wishing to take their energy efficiency commitment to the next level will be assisted in becoming a formal ENERGY STAR Participant which brings with it benefits including heightened public awareness of their commitment to addressing environmental challenges such as climate change and air pollution.

The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) recently became the first health care facility in Canada to sign on as an ENERGY STAR Participant. According to Jessica Heiss, Coordinator, Sustainability & Building Integration at TOH, “We recognized that by joining we would have an incentive to better embrace energy efficiency throughout our sites and make it a much bigger element in our overall corporate planning and redevelopment strategy. In practical terms, we are working to increase the awareness of ENERGY STAR savings opportunities among members of our purchasing teams and engineering consultants as we plan for new purchases and upgrade projects. It offered us a framework to better embrace energy efficient appliances and energy awareness training.”

When proactive health care organizations, such as TOH embrace energy conservation and environmental management through formal policies and actions, they enhance quality of life for employees, clients, patients, and those in the surrounding communities they serve. Energy and operating cost decrease, workplace and healing environments become more comfortable and people-friendly; employee morale improves, local economies are stimulated, employees become more aware of how their actions can reduce their overall impact on the health of our environment, and aging facility infrastructure gets revitalised.

To learn more about how you can work one-on-one with one of the new HELP Team members, visit  http://energystar.greenhealthcare.ca.

Article By:

Kent Waddington

Kent Waddington is the Director of Communications at the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care.

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