The future of green hospitals | Developing sustainable & energy efficient hospital infrastructure

green hospitals

The development of green hospitals

Hospitals are among the most important institutions that record high and permanent energy consumption in the world. It is evident that modern hospitals have been designed with low thermal mass where they heat fast and cool down at the same speed. This means they depend highly on artificial systems like ventilation, lighting and interior environment. Other facilities like elevators, monitoring of patients, sterilization and cleaning, and operating rooms are required to work 24 hours a day, 365 days year.

The practice of sustainable energy in hospital development will facilitate uninterrupted treatment services and increase the institution’s diagnostic capabilities. Hospitals that lack sustainable energy usually suffer; regarding the patient’s treatments plans and the management of healthcare facilities. Faced with these challenges, there is a greater need for institutions to begin developing green hospitals.

This can be done by ensuring current health facilities and hospital infrastructure operate more sustainably and efficiently, especially under a resource constrained situation.

For example, the Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland, California based Healthcare organization made a commitment towards renewable energy by working on decreasing its greenhouse emission from 8,06, 000 to 6,17,000 metric tons a year between 2015 and 2017.

The health organization has a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2020 and ‘carbon net positive’ by 2025. Direct initiatives that can be adopted by hospitals include the development of energy efficient infrastructure, ensuring lights are turned off, putting computers into sleep mode and lowering or raising thermostats within hospital facilities. According to Healthtrust, hospitals consume nearly twice the energy consumed by an average commercial building.

Image courtesy of NCBI

Critical steps that are being taken to make sustainability a key factor in hospital development include setting up utility usage dashboards that enable hospitals to monitor departments that consume much energy. Hospitals have also come with automation system integration which allows hospital facilities to control their central plant operations.

The third is the real-time metering which allows facilities to monitor their usage in real time and immediately make adjustments. Hospital staff should be educated on green energy through benchmarking to ensure that they understand the importance of sustainable energy.

To ensure the promotion of green hospitals, it calls for commitment from the top to the bottom level management. This is because when there is no leadership, establishing sustainable green hospitals will not be realized.

While looking at the traditional infrastructure and the green infrastructures, more capital investment and manpower is needed regarding the efficient use of water, energy, and materials in the hospitals and reducing the impacts of infrastructure in human health and environment, through better construction, operation, maintenance and removal.

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Government policies to promote sustainable & energy-efficient hospitals

To ensure energy efficient hospitals, it calls for both the private and government actors to participate. The United States during the Obama Administration came up with a Health Hospital Initiative that meant to accelerate the adoption of green hospitals in the United States. The initiative which was adopted in 2012, began with 600 largest hospitals in the country is just but one way of ensuring adoption of energy efficient hospitals.

Also in 2009, the United States government launched the Hospital Energy Alliance (HEA) which is an industry-led collaboration between the US Department of Energy and the national healthcare sector leaders as a way to ensure integration of sustainable energy technologies in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of hospitals.

In India, the government enacted the Energy Conservation Act (EC Act) in 2001 as a goal of reducing energy use in all sectors of economies including hospital operations. Through the act, hospitals are required to follow standards regarding installing appliances, follow energy conservation codes and consumption norms in energy-intensive departments.

In Israel, the government through their energy efficiency programs have a strategy to reduce consumption of energy by 2020. This is done by the implementation of standardized labels for electronic devices, benchmarking and awareness education programs.

Germany has in place a National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE) which places its focus on information dissemination to the public about sustainable energy practices, setting standards for new installations and building to focus on sustainable energy. Its main aim is to ensure a 20% reduction of primary consumption of energy by 2020 since 2008 and have it by 2050.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) focuses on ensuring implementation of climate-friendly technologies in quality or primary care, especially in low-income areas. This is because energy is scarce in these areas. Some of the green practices include installation of solar or wind technologies that can provide sustainable power to hospitals and clinics.

Companies developing solutions for green hospitals

As sustainable energy is a major issue for hospital operations in both the rural and urban centers. This calls for continued global hospital partnership with companies that focus in sustainable energy infrastructure. For example, GE Health center in Germany collaborated with Germany’s Asklepios Hospital Group in reducing the environmental footprint of a hospital located in Hamburg. This collaboration will see an increase in energy efficiency by 30% and a reduction of consumption by 30%.

Also, Jeff Hull with Idaho-based St. Luke’s Health System came up with energy sustainable practices that include enhancement of natural light, installation of ‘green spaces’, expansion of recycling plants and using technology in curbing energy use.

The Ecosir group came up with logistic vacuum transfer solution for buildings with its main focus being the hospitals. Ramboll group ensures that hospitals are built in a way to accommodate changes from the climate like patient needs and heat during summer and flooding during storms. Green buildings are also most common in rural Africa like the Quaint Global Solutions which develops renewable power projects by providing solar energy to rural Nigeria.

Green hospitals are the need of the hour

Green hospitals are the future for proper health management practices. It will ensure unlimited energy supply in medical institutions, optimize management of resources and streamline workflow to ensure sustainable energies in hospital.

This calls for a collaboration of both the private and public sector to cater for specific hospital needs through innovative but sustainable systems.

In the end, green hospitals will not only be a place that houses healthcare amenities but will also be a center for wellness and transformation of both the patients, the healthcare staff and reusable energy systems.

Apart from reducing the cost of running hospitals, it will also see a reduction in the carbon footprint of hospitals through the incorporation of green infrastructure to the healthcare environment.

Image credit: www.istockphoto.com

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