Healthcare News & Insights

Are large hospitals energy hogs?

In 2007, large U.S. hospitals consumed about 5.5% of the total delivered energy used by the commercial sector. In 2003, they consumed 4.3%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So are large hospitals sucking up more than their fair share?

Forbes answered this question with a resounding YES in the article “Heal Thy Self: U.S. Hospitals Are Huge Energy Hogs.”

But are they really?

Sure large hospitals consume a lot of energy, but to put it in perspective you need to consider what they do and how they do it.

First off, they’re open 24 hours a day. Then add to that the thousands of employees, patients and visitors that use the facilities day in and day out. Not to mention the fact that they often have sophisticated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to control temps and air flow.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency also pointed out that many energy-intensive activities occur in large hospitals such as laundry, medical and lab equipment use, sterilization, computer and server use, food services and refrigeration.

Then take into account the fact that according to the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey 2007:

  • there were approximately 3,040 large hospital buildings (over 200,000 square feet) in the U.S.
  • they comprised 1.96 billion square feet of floorspace with an average of 644,300 square feet per building
  • a total of 3.3 million employees worked in those buildings with an average of 586 square feet per employee, and
  • total licensed bed capacity was 915,000, with an average of 2,140 square feet per licensed bed.

Conservation efforts

Hospitals do consume a lot of energy. But many are doing what they can to conserve it and keep costs down.

The 2007 survey found most large hospitals had energy management and conservation plans in place and used technology to save money.

For example, 93% have some form of lighting conservation in place, 88% use multi-layered glass in their windows and 76% used an economizer cycle, which pulls in outside air for cooling.

And today many hospitals are building new facilities or undergoing renovations to update the technology they use for medical equipment and environmental conservation.

For those facilities thinking about renovations, Forbes points to clean heat and power (CHP) as the “big show” for reducing energy waste at large hospitals.

Mike Hatten, an internationally known engineer and expert in building energy efficiency, has found hospitals that have had a tune-up and improved their operations and maintenance practices have seen between 10% to 20% cost reduction, especially when strategic energy management initiatives have been supported at the executive management level.

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