West Park Healthcare Centre Goes Green

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Energy conservation has been near the forefront of West Park Healthcare Centre’s priorities for more than 15 years and the hospital’s commitment has paid off in a big way.

Since the mid-1980s, West Park has saved nearly $2.7-million in energy costs. In recognition of those efforts, it was presented with the Green Health Care Award in Energy Conservation at the recent annual Ontario Hospital Association awards ceremony.

“As I’ve said many times over the years, there’s gold in them there buildings,” says West Park’s president & CEO Barry Monaghan. West Park Healthcare Centre is the Greater Toronto Area’s western regional adult rehabilitation centre and provider of complex continuing and long-term care. The centre’s 145 complex continuing care beds and 133 rehabilitation beds are housed in three interconnected buildings located on a 27-acre campus.

Monaghan has been the driving force behind the centre’s energy management plan, approaching it with an attitude formed in the mid-1970s while CEO of a hospital in St. Catharines. That hospital’s energy retrofit had a significant impact on both comfort and cost and “it struck a chord with me,” he says simply.

When he became CEO of West Park Healthcare Centre in 1986, one of the first things he did was commission an energy audit. Rose Technologies Ñ now VESTAR Ltd., currently one of the top five energy service companies in North America Ñ was selected and they began their first steps toward energy systems upgrading the following year.

“It’s a classic win-win-win situation,” Monaghan continues. To make his case, he points to the accumulated cost savings; the social responsibility practiced by using less of a non-renewable energy resource and contributing to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions; and to the increased comfort factor in the living and working environment for patients and staff.

As a result of their energy conservation initiatives over a 15-year period, the centre has reduced electrical demand by 19,544 kilowatts; reduced natural gas consumption by 240,858 cubic metres; and avoided more than 22,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Extensive improvements to lighting quality and distribution and air exchange systems also enhanced conditions for patients and staff.

The project involved an initial physical audit of all mechanical and electrical building environmental systems including lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation and controls. The audit was followed by comprehensive electrical and mechanical system retrofits in two phases. These included replacement of incandescent lights with energy-efficient fluourescent lighting, automation of several plant operations and installation of boiler economizers that reduce fuel needed to maintain adequate heating levels.

Phase 1 of the energy retrofit was completed in 1991. It cost $678,168 and had a payback in 4.6 years. Phase 2 was begun in 1998 when the centre realized that new technology would enable it to go beyond measures implemented in Phase 1. The second phase, completed in 2000, included further electrical systems upgrades. It cost $310,000 and has an estimated 4.5-year payback.

During the project, the centre also expanded its Information Technology department, adding high-consumption computer servers. It renovated its TB Service, adding a new air handling system for infection-control purposes which also boosted energy consumption. Despite these demand increases, the centre saw a net reduction in energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases.

According to Peter Daldoss, VESTAR project manager responsible for West Park’s retrofit, the centre’s Building Energy Performance Index or BEPI (the amount of energy used per square foot) “is lower than the benchmark, so they’re doing much better than hospitals with a comparable layout.”

In terms of the economics of such a project, “the key message is: take the long-range view,” Monaghan emphasises. For example, the centre tracked its consumption against the baseline and projected what it might have been if they had done nothing or less than what they had invested. “We were able to quantify the impact over a very long period of time and it is significant.”

The other factor that he stresses is: don’t assume that an energy conservation initiative that you put in place 10 years ago is all you can do. “You have to keep going back and asking your advisors about what’s new.” Among the centre’s future considerations are the installation of a cogeneration plant to supply onsite electricity and a move to programmable lighting systems.

“That’s what’s unique about West Park. They’ve always looked at this project as being alive and asked, ‘What else can we do?'” says Daldoss. “And that’s more a function of their interest in, and their understanding of, energy.”