One organization’s commitment to sustainability

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Island Health provides health care to more than 765,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands of the Georgia Strait, communities north of Powell River and south of Rivers Inlet and is committed to sustainability. While Island Health’s key priority is providing excellent care, we are also dedicated to reducing our environmental impact, energy consumption and waste. Being committed to sustainability not only reduces our operating costs but it also helps ensure Vancouver Island remains a vibrant, beautiful and healthy place to live.

Throughout the organization, there are many examples of our commitment to sustainability. Below are a few of these:

  • The Energy Efficiency and Conservation department (EEC) was created in 2011 in part to ensure the organization achieves carbon neutrality through Green House Gas (GHG) reporting and the purchase of offsets.
  • The organization also has a strategic energy management plan for reducing GHG emissions and it provides a roadmap for meeting and exceeding provincially legislated GHG reduction targets.
  • To ensure that Island Health can expand its services while limiting GHG emissions, all new construction is built to LEED Gold standards and enrolled in BC Hydro’s New Construction Program. 
  • In addition to reduced energy costs, the benefit of Island Heath’s energy management program includes securing substantial funding from external sources, mainly: BC Hydro and FortisBC.  At present, these external funding agencies have committed to provide over $670,000, on projects worth nearly $10,000,000.  In the prior two fiscal years, we received a total of $5.4 million in external funding on projects worth $11.7 million in addition to over $2 million from Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement funding.

Many of Island Health’s successes can be attributed to strong partnerships with BC Hydro, FortisBC and the Climate Action Secretariat.  In addition to providing incentives for capital projects, BC Hydro has been instrumental in developing an energy program at Island Health. The utility has co-funded two Energy Manager positions as well as provided funding for Energy Studies, recommissioning programs and workplace conservation awareness programs. FortisBC has also provided support to the program by funding three Energy Specialist positions as well as custom energy studies.

In 2012, Island Health was recognized by BC Hydro as a Power Smart Leader, the highest level of recognition possible from BC Hydro and was also ranked #1 on its Top 10 list of Power Smart Partners in 2013.  Island Health was awarded the Canadian College of Health Leader’s Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award in 2013.  This recognition came with a $2,000 prize to be donated to a select charity.  The EEC team decided to donate this prize to the West Coast General Hospital Foundation in Port Alberni, BC in recognition of the enthusiasm of that facility’s Green Team

Through a variety of technical projects ranging from, but not exclusive to, boiler plant upgrades, lighting overhauls, site wide air balancing projects and heat recovery systems, Island Health’s EEC team has helped curb the bite of rising utility costs, while the organization continued to expand services.   Projects completed in 2013 resulted in 2.75GWh of annual electrical energy savings. This is worth nearly $200,000 off our utility bills.

  • The new Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Emergency Wing in Nanaimo, BC is a LEED Gold targeted building and employs a number of technological features which help to ensure it operates with minimal impact. A key energy saving measure is the implementation of a heat recovery chiller which provides necessary cooling to regions of the building while also collecting and distributing heat, maximizing its efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint. A fairly unique feature is a thermal labyrinth, which is used to temper incoming outdoor air. The labyrinth took advantage of the ability to move the outdoor air through a long plenum in the basement of the facility.
  • Island Health’s newest building, Oceanside Health Care Centre in Parksville, BC, also a LEED Gold targeted building, has a unique and effective method of conserving space heating and cooling which therefore reduces its electricity use and carbon footprint.  This facility employs Thermenex technology (Thermal Energy Exchange); the first of its kind on Vancouver Island, BC.  The intent of this technology is to ensure that thermal energy or cooling that is not needed in one part of the building is transferred to another part of the building that needs it, rather than producing new thermal energy or cooling, hence reducing energy input to the building.  BC Hydro supported this facility’s construction and provided funding through its Commercial New Construction program to help make our energy and carbon reduction goals a reality.
  • West Coast General Hospital, Port Alberni BC, once one of Island Health’s most energy intensive buildings, saved approximately 3700 GJ of natural gas during 2013 compared to 2012 through the implementation of energy efficiency measures along with excellent cooperation, leadership and planning from Facilities Maintenance and Operations. These energy savings added up to $59,000 in avoided utility costs.
  • For many of Island Health’s sites, the EEC team has developed energy targets which are reviewed with Facilities Directors, Managers, Supervisors, and staff regularly to ensure Island Health is on the right track to maximizing energy efficiency.

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To engage employees in more sustainable practices at work on a broad scale, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation department created the Green Champion program. This program is modeled after the highly successful Green + Leaders program implemented in the Lower Mainland Health Authorities facilities. The program enables staff to roll out energy campaigns in their departments, attend regular meetings to discuss sustainability, help coordinate educational events, and enable their peers to act more sustainably.

Currently, Island Health has six Green Champion sites where there is support from a range of departments, including but not limited to housekeeping, maintenance and operations, clinical departments, and food services.  The Green Champions can make a significant difference by changing their peers’ attitudes towards energy efficiency and sustainability.  At Trillium Lodge, Parksville BC, since the inception of the Green Champion program, there has been a sustained decrease in electrical demand by 20 per cent. These results were possible due to great leadership from Facilities and Maintenance staff and a strong, active and cohesive group of Green Champions.

Green Champions and the EEC team put on large campaigns aimed at reducing electricity and natural gas use, water waste and paper waste.  The campaigns have ranged from interdepartmental staff driven initiatives, travelling educational tours from the Energy Team and large events held in cafeterias which help us reach hundreds of staff at our Green sites.  Island Health staff, local media, and community leaders such as the Mayor of Port Alberni, BC and Deputy Mayor of Parksville, BC have all attended Island Health green events and recognize that Island Health staff can play an integral role on reducing our impact.

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Through the annual Green Survey, we have found, since the start of the Green Island Health program, more staff are reporting turning off lights, monitors and considering sustainability at work compared to prior years. Green Champions continue to emerge throughout the organization and all do their part to reduce waste and energy consumption.  It is with the help of Island Health’s 18,000 employees that Island Health will continue to be a leader in sustainability and carbon neutrality.