Bright Ideas

By Nancy E. Berry on March 5, 2013

Practice Greenhealth member NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s energy-efficiency program is a shining example in the health care community.


Exterior photo of NewYork Presbyterian Hospital


Even patient rooms with no natural light take steps to conserve energy with LED lighting.


Glass walls offer internal hallways natural light at the Thain Center for Prenatal Pediatrics.


Although NYP has increased its hospital campus size, it continues to reduce its average annual energy source intensity.


Interior photo of NewYork Presbyterian Hospital


NewYork-Presbyterian’s Carmen and John Thain Center for Prenatal Pediatrics designed by Perkins+Will offers natural daylight and energy-efficient LED lighting

As an organization, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital strives to be a leader in all initiatives that benefit our patients and employees.

—Roberto Nunez, NEWYORK-PRESBYTERIAN/The Allen Hospital Site Director and Energy Efficiency Committee Member

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the country’s most populated city is no easy task. But one facility is raising the energy-efficiency bar in New York’s health care sector. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP), a medical center affiliated with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges (Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medical College), delivers comprehensive medical services to New York City residents. The hospital not only strives for excellence in its patient care but also in the way the hospital approaches reducing energy consumption. Determined to help the city breathe a bit easier, NYP established and has successfully met rigorous energy savings targets since 2003. Implementing an energy management program has been key to the hospital’s success. NYP is the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital with 2,333 beds and is spread over five major campuses that encompass 33 buildings (which includes the latest addition—the Carmen and John Thain Center for Prenatal Pediatrics designed by architectural firm and Practice Greenhealth Member Perkins + Will) and 8.2 million square feet. “This makes it among the top 2 percent of energy users in the New York City metropolitan area,” notes Kathia Benitez, energy programs manager at NYP.

A typical work day at NYP is driven by its primary mission, to put patients first. “Energy management is an essential component to health care facility operations—we see ourselves as the heart of the institution,” notes Benitez. “It’s imperative to keep all pumps and motors operating efficiently to avoid any disruptions, and energy provides the comforting HVAC, lighting, and restful activities and diversions that yield outstanding patient experiences. Like everything else within this environment, energy should be proactively managed to ensure effective and efficient use,” says John D’Angelo, vice president of facilities and engineering. Joseph Kraus, electrical manager at NYP/Weill Cornell and energy efficiency committee member agrees and explains, “Every dollar saved on energy costs gets invested back into patient care.”

As the technology to address environmental issues evolves, NewYork-Presbyterian is committed to identifying and exploring those state-of-the-art energy technologies.

—Douglas McGrath, General Services Director, NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, and Energy Efficiency Committee Member

“The daily challenges that the plant operations team faces to run an efficient facility in accordance to local, state, and federal regulations keeps us motivated,” says Timothy Smyth, energy efficiency committee member. “In doing so we are providing cleaner air for our patients and the community.” Although the challenges are great, the program’s success has resulted in seven ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Awards for Sustained Excellence in Energy Management and multiple Practice Greenhealth Awards for sustainability practices.

Over the next three years, the Energy Efficiency Committee will continue to implement energy conservation and facility improvement measures at all existing building systems to address operational improvements, indoor environmental quality, domestic hot water, heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical and lighting efficiencies. NYP has identified relatively low-cost means to continue its energy efficient path such as installing occupancy motion sensors, lighting retrofits, insulation repairs, air handler repairs, temperature resets, and efficient sequence of operations to produce steam and chilled water. “In 2012, we committed to energy cost savings of at least $800,000 through retro-commissioning, with a four-year commitment of $4.3 million in utilities cost savings. To date, we have exceeded this goal by 13 percent,” notes Benitez. And although these are great savings the hospital won’t stop its energy efficiency efforts here. The next major challenge is to comply with President Obama’s Better Building Initiative to make commercial and industrial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

In 2012, we committed to energy cost savings of at least $800,000 through retro-commissioning, with a four-year commitment of $4.3 million in utilities cost savings. To date, we have exceeded this goal by 13 percent.

—Kathia Benitez, energy programs manager at NYP

Energy Independence

Is it a feasible goal for the health care sector? Some facilities are making it a reality.

Gundersen Lutheran Onalaska, Wisconsin

When you think “landfill” you probably don’t think “renewable energy source.” But, that’s just what the La Crosse County landfill in Wisconsin has turned into for Gundersen Health System. Gundersen teamed with the county on a project that turns waste biogas created from the landfill into power. The project represents about 11 percent of Gundersen Health System’s total energy independence goal, which the system hopes to reach next year. Biogas is generated when waste degrades underground. As the solid waste decomposes, it gives off about 300 cubic feet of gas a minute. A little more than half of that gas is methane. Typically methane is captured and flared off at the landfill, so the natural resource is wasted. Instead of flaring it off, the county pipes the gas to an engine installed on the Gundersen Lutheran Onalaska Campus. The landfill gas powers the engine, and turns a generator that produces electricity. The engine also creates heat, which is used to heat buildings and water on the campus. This project produces as much energy as the Gundersen Lutheran Onalaska Campus consumes, making that multiple building health care campus the only one in the country to be 100 percent energy independent. —Gundersen Lutheran

Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, California

Sunny California is the perfect place to capture the power of the sun and turn it into renewable energy. And one of America’s greenest health care systems is doing just that. Kaiser Permanente installed solar-power systems at 15 of its California facilities—deploying a total 15 megawatts of solar energy—by the end of 2011. The 4,958 photovoltaic solar panels at the San Diego Medical Center will produce a quarter of the hospital’s annual power supply—or enough to

provide electricity for 1,000 homes for one year. “Kaiser Permanente has a long history of energy conservation and environmental stewardship, and our use of solar and other forms of renewable energy further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to improving the overall health and well-being of San Diegans and the Grantville community,” says Mary Ann Barnes, senior vice president and executive director of Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. —Kaiser Permanente

Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, Greenburg, Kansas

In 2007, a tornado swept through Greenburg, Kansas, devastating 95 percent of town, including Kiowa County Memorial Hospital. “The tornado not only destroyed our community and hospital—it caused a major shift in how we make decisions. In rebuilding, we learned not to look at the initial cost only, but to look at environmental impact, long-term cost savings, and sustainable and renewable resources,” says Mary Sweet, administrator at Kiowa County Memorial Hospital. Striking back at this natural disaster, the hospital’s design team decided to create the “first of its kind” energy-efficient hospital, while still meeting functional and safety requirements. Completed in March 2010, the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital designed by Health Facilities Group, LLC, achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with the support of DOE, provided technical assistance to determine the most cost-effective energy-efficiency strategies. And one major factor was the introduction of the Greensburg Wind Farm as well as on-site wind turbines to produce energy for the hospital. Thanks to the Greensburg Wind Farm, the on-site wind turbine, and other energy efficiency measures, the hospital’s total annual energy costs are expected to be approximately $186,100—a reduction of more than 40 percent from its previous energy costs. —Kiowa County Memorial Hospital

2013 Retro- Commissioning Projects

  • Air handler repairs
  • Chiller plant sequence of operations, cooling tower sequencing and control panel upgrade
  • Cooling tower replacements
  • High pressure steam insulation repairs
  • Boiler economizer upgrades
  • Air handler upgrades
  • Cooling tower motor upgrades— installing variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Replacing medical gas compressors—going from water cooled to air cooled
  • LED lighting retrofits

STAR for Sustained Excellence

NYP has continued to use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool to monitor performance and track improvements since the inception of the program in 2003. NYP has received its seventh ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence recognition for its ongoing commitment to comprehensive energy management.

  • Reducing its average annual source energy intensity per square foot, while increasing the size of its portfolio by nearly 41,800 square feet.
  • NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center saved more than $20 million in utility costs since 2009 through the use of an energy-efficient cogeneration system.
  • Achieving $2.8 million in energy cost savings without substantial capital investment by submetering and monitoring the energy use of its chiller plant and district cooling systems, and optimizing its operation based on energy trends.
  • Recruiting more than 200 green champions to encourage environmentally-friendly practices throughout the organization.
  • Educating employees, patients, and the general public about energy efficiency and its ENERGY STAR partnership through its website, onsite Earth Day events, energy fairs, speaking opportunities, and interviews.