Gifford ranks first in Vermont for energy efficiency among hospitals
Already the most energy efficient hospital in the state, Gifford Medical Center is striving to become the first hospital in Vermont to earn a national “Energy Star” rating by the end of 2014.
The Energy Star label is a program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that benchmarks energy use. For hospitals that means looking at energy use per square foot and then taking into account factors such as number of hospital beds, number of employees and climates. Hospitals are then ranked nationwide.
No Vermont hospital has achieved the 75th percentile ranking required for the Energy Star rating. Gifford is currently at 65 percent and as such, the most energy efficient hospital in Vermont.
The Randolph medical center would have to reduce its energy usage by 6 percent to reach the 75th percentile. Despite Gifford’s record of energy efficiency, Tim Perrin at Efficiency Vermont and Gifford’s Director of Facilities Tyson Moulton say further reduction is attainable.
In fact, energy efficiency projects are already under way.
Last month, electricians at Gifford changed out parking lot lights from 250-watt metal halide bulbs to more efficient 78-watt LEDs.
Other projects planned include replacing a large kitchen stove hood with one that runs on demand using heat sensors rather than running more constantly. In addition to electricity savings, the hood would remove less air that has already been heated or cooled. Heating and ventilation systems in parts of the building are also being rebalanced to run more efficiently.
The projects, noted Moulton, are part of an ongoing energy efficiency plan at the hospital and relatively small in scale because of work that has already taken place.
“We have a history of energy efficiency,” Moulton said.
Moulton gives a couple of examples. A project in the 1980s focused on recapturing some exhaust heat from the medical center’s inpatient unit to reclaim energy. The building’s pumping system has been simplified to replace many smaller pumps added over time with fewer larger pumps, and domestic hot water and chilled water for coolant systems have also been converted to demand-based systems.
Moulton credits former facilities head Theron Manning with the decades-long work that has led to Gifford’s top energy efficiency rating.
The ranking, however, does not include buildings outside of the main medical center, namely older homes that have been converted into office space surrounding the medical center and Gifford’s eight outlying community health centers.
The benchmarking of Vermont hospitals is by Efficiency Vermont, which has been reaching out to medical centers to reduce energy usage. Efficiency Vermont helped Gifford audit and identify lower cost ways to reduce energy consumption last year when the medical center and other large Vermont employers participated in a voluntary “Energy Leadership Challenge.”
Gifford is also part of the national Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Vermont is the first state in the nation to have all hospitals join the initiative, which includes energy reduction.
Efficiency Vermont, Vermont hospitals and the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems worked collaboratively on the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.
“We have been very impressed with the work that Gifford has done to manage energy usage and promote sustainability,” Richard Donnelly of Efficiency Vermont said in announcing that all Vermont hospitals had signed on to the initiative.
“Energy efficiency is always part of projects,” Moulton said. “When we replace fixtures and equipment, we look at what we can do to be energy efficient.”
That look toward energy efficiency is done both from a costs’ perspective to save the non-profit, patient-focused medical center money and to reduce its impact on the environment, particularly when it comes to non-renewable energy.
“Both electricity and oil are very expensive,” said Moulton. “Most of Vermont’s electricity, however, is from a hydroelectric, which is renewable. Oil is a limited resource.”