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Healthcare Sector Recovery: Tips from the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), a Better Buildings Affiliate

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Sep 01, 2020

The current pandemic is challenging the US healthcare system in unprecedented ways. Facilities have been reimagined, renovated, strained, and underutilized simultaneously – ICUs and other critical care areas have seen an increase in occupancy while offices in medical office buildings sit empty. The American Hospital Association (AHA) studies have found that hospitals and health systems could lose upwards of $300 billion by the end of the year because of COVID-19. The pandemic caused cancellations of nearly all elective surgeries, a key source of income for most hospitals. With budgets being cut to mitigate such losses, saving energy remains crucial to operations.

Better Buildings Affiliate American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) put together a COVID-19 Recovery page to help members and other healthcare facility managers navigate the multitude of difficulties coming out of the pandemic. Two areas of note from the page make the connections between energy efficiency, sustainability, and health:

  • Damage to the built environment: The creation of negative pressure rooms, the relocation of patient care equipment outside of the patient rooms, wear and tear on the facility due to the surge, and damage to ductwork or HVAC changes/modifications have all been tough on infrastructure.
  • Sustainability measures: Energy management systems may have been overridden, set back, or turned off to meet surge demands on facilities. Schedules, ventilation measures, and water and waste conservation measures may have been modified as well, and fleet management strategies for the organization may have been altered to meet surges.

ASHE also created a COVID-19 Recovery Checklist, which includes sections on specific facility issues, immediate and long-term strategies, inspection/testing/maintenance, sustainability, and creating a new norm. The checklist is editable and customizable, and can help prioritize energy efficiency projects.

The sustainability tab is organized into seven action items:

  1. Energy Data Trending and Tracking – Energy to Care Dashboard: Checking energy data is up to date, flagging performance, evaluating trends
  2. Scheduling: Verifying medical office building schedules, thermostats set to efficiency and comfort, room ventilation assessments
  3. Control: Temperate and airflow settings, chiller plant performance, peak/load shaving, air handling unit assessments
  4. Repair and Maintenance: Economizer maintenance, VFD status, thermal envelope, evaluating leaks, preventative maintenance to HVAC equipment
  5. Evaluate steam traps
  6. Eliminate water fixture leaks
  7. Eliminate equipment and piping leaks

ASHE’s Energy to Care program has many resources to help healthcare facilities make progress on their Better Buildings efficiency goals:

  • Sustainability Guide
  • Energy to Care Dashboard
  • Educational Tools
  • Energy to Care Treasure Hunt Program
  • Awards Program

The Energy Conservation Measures resource, housed on the Energy to Care program website, provides guidance for integrating sustainable practices into the health care environment. Organized by action item (prepare, schedule, control, repair audit) and labeled by level-of-effort, the resource contains 1-pagers and helpful videos to assist in completing energy conservation measures.