Sunnybrook saves energy

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Behind the scenes at one of Canada’s largest hospitals is an unseen but essential part of running such an organization: the power plant and its energy management program. In servicing over 2.25 million square feet of facility at the Bayview campus, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre runs the largest hospital power plant in Ontario. And it doesn’t stop there, the power plant is getting even larger as it prepares for the four floor addition to M-Wing and the expansion of the emergency department.

“Managing and conserving energy in its many forms is an important function at a hospital this size,” says Mark Egtesadi, Chief Engineer of the Sunnybrook power plant. “We are responsible for providing adequate heating and cooling throughout the year to satisfy the needs of end users which include patients, visitors and staff, and we also always need to consider high priority areas like critical care, operating rooms, and research. It is essential to maintain and conserve energy whenever and wherever we can.”

As one would expect from such a large and aging facility, there have been challenges, but in recent years, Sunnybrook has excelled at implementing successful energy savings initiatives to address these issues. Since 2003 in particular, Sunnybrook has been recognized on a number of occasions by its gas supplier Enbridge; receiving incentive cheques in response to the excellent energy saving initiatives that were implemented, one of which was the largest amount ever made to a hospital in Canadian history.

The following is an overview of the initiatives taking place at Sunnybrook’s Power Plant since 2003, in light of rising energy costs and the desire to conserve energy:

Steam TrapsIn 2003, there was a 29 per cent loss of condensate (condensed steam), which meant the facility was losing city water, the chemicals used to treat it, and massive amounts of energy. “We knew the costs of these losses were high, so we had a steam trap survey done,” says Mark. “Out of 1200 traps, 250 were defective requiring replacing or fixing. We spent time and money replacing and fixing the traps, pipes, fittings and tanks, which gave us instant savings, as it reduced the rate of condensation loss from 29 to 9 per cent.” The cost of making the changes was paid back within six months of implementing the plan. In addition, Enbridge presented Sunnybrook with an incentive cheque for approximately $29,000 for the energy savings that were achieved.

InsulationThrough the years, the insulation covering the piping system and other equipment was found to be breaking down, damaged or missing. In 2004, the power plant identified these areas and fixed them, once again achieving instant savings. This project took only a year to receive its pay back in energy savings. Enbridge again gave Sunnybrook an $11,000 incentive cheque for energy savings.

Building Automation SystemsIn 2005, the power plant started upgrading the existing computerized Building Automation System to gain better control of HVAC (the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system) and other equipment. As a result, the power plant engineers were then able to adjust and operate the ventilation system more efficiently and have added a sophisticated nightly shutdown schedule for fans in non-critical care and non-patient care areas to save energy when these areas are not occupied. This initiative qualified Sunnybrook for the largest cheque ever awarded in the hospital sector in Canada from Enbridge for the amount of $ 96,607.

Heat ExchangersOver the last year the plant operations team has been considering the replacement of 74 aging heat exchangers throughout the hospital: both domestic hot water heat exchangers and radiation heating heat exchangers. “New heat exchangers are very efficient and create large energy savings, so we have started looking into replacing older heat exchangers with new high efficiency ones,” says Mark. Enbridge has already approved and will award a $46,000 incentive cheque for this initiative; bringing the total amount of incentive cheques awarded to Sunnybrook by Enbridge to $182,607.

Another energy savings program currently underway is a water savings plan. There are surveys currently taking place to determine how much water is being inefficiently used in the vast systems of piping and equipment within the facility. One such project, which has already been carried out, is the conversion of medical air and vacuum pumps from a water-cooled to an air-cooled system. The City of Toronto Water Department has issued Sunnybrook a $17,631 incentive cheque for the volume of water saved from this initiative.

Mark notes that the incentive money so far received is in addition to the many hundreds of thousands of dollars saved in energy costs due to these conservation efforts.

Next StepsThe plant operations team continues to look for ways to reduce energy use, which will involve the use of energy consultants to identify other potential areas for new energy savings. In addition to examining equipment, part of this initiative will include energy awareness for staff, patients and visitors.

With all these initiatives underway, it is not only energy that is being saved, but human resources as well. “When you do regular preventive maintenance, and when you follow through with your energy management program, it’s not only about savings, it also gives you the opportunity to use your internal resources more efficiently, limiting the need for outside contractors,” says Mark. “The more we save, the more we can direct funds to other important initiatives in the hospital. At the end of the day, reinvesting in our hospital infrastructure and saving energy for ourselves and for Ontario is part of our responsibility as a large provincial organization.”