Healthcare infrastructure represents a monumental opportunity for energy reduction nationwide. The building sector consumes approximately 50% of the total energy used in the U.S. (Architecture 2030, 2011). Healthcare buildings account for less than one percent of all commercial buildings, and two percent of all commercial floor space, yet account for 5.5% of commercial building energy consumption. This figure has increased since 2004, when healthcare consumed 4.3% of the total delivered energy within the building sector (EIA, 2012).
The U.S. spends approximately $40 Million monthly on healthcare construction (US Census, 2012). Most of this construction is being designed at code minimum energy standards, and few projects exceed code minimum. At a time where healthcare reimbursements are decreasing for many healthcare organizations, spending on energy is one area that can become less costly with greater efficiency, bolstering the bottom-line for organizations. Reducing energy use also has a direct impact on carbon emissions, thus has an impact on environmental health. As institutions whose missions are to “first do no harm,” reducing the environmental and health burden of energy consumption should be a fundamental priority for healthcare organizations. The cycle of planning, design, and constructing new hospitals can take seven to ten years from pro-forma to operational completion, thus it is very important to intervene today, and to develop strategies for radically reducing energy use impacting implementation now and into the future.
Reducing energy consumption in hospitals has a direct relationship to reduced carbon emissions, reduced greenhouse gasses, and improved air quality. Emissions associated with energy generation, especially in areas using coal as a primary source of electricity generation, are sources of reduced air quality and contribute to increased incidence of asthma and have other deleterious health consequences. As institutions whose missions are founded in preserving and maintaining human health, and institutions that use over 5% of all energy consumed in the commercial sector, the hospital as community infrastructure has vast potential for improving the neighborhoods that they inhabit. Numerous organizations have begun to recognize the connection between environmental health, energy efficiency, and the role that hospitals have to play within these sets of issues. One very recent publication co-sponsored by the World Health Organization and Healthcare Without Harm highlights these issues: "Healthy Hospitals, Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Addressing Climate Change in Heath Care Settings."
Hospitals also have a reputation for being less than ideal environments for patients to heal and staff to work. Designers, researchers and health professionals have long recognized that healthy, healing interior environments are imperative for patients, but are now coming to realize that such high quality interior environments are equally important for staff who work in these critical care settings. Thus it is crucial to incorporate high interior environmental quality attributes such as abundant daylight, fresh air, views of the outdoors, and the greatest opportunities for individual personal control of light, temperature and fresh air into new hospital developments. It is also important for hospital owners and designers to understand both the energy and cost implications of these design decisions.
High performance buildings address both of these aspects: energy efficiency, and improved indoor environmental quality.
Architecture 2030. “The 2030 Challenge”. http://www.architecture2030.org/2030_challenge/index.html.
United States Energy Information Administration, CBECS 2007, Release date August 17, 2012: http://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/reports/2007/large-hospital.cfm
U.S. Department of Commerce: Census Bureau 2012. Data accessed at: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/TLHLTHCONS