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Thought Leadership from Sieben Energy Associates

Sustainable Operations in Healthcare: An Energy Management Program

According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), “for every one dollar spent on energy efficiency” at hospitals it is estimated that the “energy dollars saved vary from $20-$50” and, the “improved air quality could save more than $20 billion annually in health care costs in the United States alone.”2 Reducing the use of fossil fuels at hospitals arguably benefits both the bottom-line and the air we breathe. This suggests that it is a win-win for energy efficiency strategies at hospitals. Albeit ensuring continuous operating capability through energy reliability will always remain the primary energy management concern at hospitals, energy is still a controllable cost center. That means smart energy sourcing, energy conservation and energy efficiency can dramatically reduce hospitals’ operating cost line-item while maintaining or improving the 24/7 energy requirements at hospitals. 

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A Strong, Silent, 350-Mile-Wide Voice in Washington

The United States has not adopted into federal law an advanced energy policy that targets energy production and consumption with respect to climate impact. Despite a lot of talk and a handful of bills proposed in Congress since President Obama's inauguration a year and a half ago, no comprehensive legislation has been able to pass both the House and Senate. A handful of bills have been proposed. None of the efforts to date was able to garner significant political momentum or public support. Healthcare and finance reform have stolen the show, and the headlines.

But all this changed when tragedies at a coal mine in West Virginia and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in dozens of human casualties and cast America's attention on fossil fuels. How Congress will respond depends on many variables, and nobody knows for certain whether any climate (or even energy) legislation will become law by January 2011. But trends indicate that if no comprehensive package emerges from Capitol Hill, states and regions will continue to strengthen their own environmental standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may assert its authority to control pollution widely viewed as an anthropogenic cause of climate change.

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Retro-Commissioning and Existing Buildings: Increasing Value by Optimizing System Performance

Many people are familiar with the term "energy efficiency." The Energy Star label that has appeared on qualifying home appliances since 1992 has helped raise awareness of how everyday operations (refrigerating food, washing clothes, cooling air) can often be accomplished with less energy. And most Americans likely recognize the meaning of "going green." The media and many prominent companies have tossed around the "green" label so often in recent years that it has begun to lose its luster. Retro-commissioning has also been around for years, but it has far less popular recognition and advertising pull. Despite its potential to transform buildings across the country and dramatically reduce energy consumption, very few folks are familiar with—or have even heard of—the term "retro-commissioning." 

Commissioning in the context of new buildings is the process of verifying that all building systems are functioning properly and efficiently in accordance with design specifications. Building commissioning engineers focus on optimizing the building's performance to maximize occupant comfort while minimizing energy consumption: they ensure that components ordered by design firms, provided by vendors, and installed by subcontractors all work together effectively.

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Energy And The U.S. Health Care Industry

The health care industry is one of the largest consumers of energy within the commercial building sector. Health care buildings are the third largest non-office, non-mall commercial energy consumer, according to the 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey by the U.S. Energy Department. In 2003 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey by the U.S. Energy Department. In 2003, $7.4 billion was sent on utilities in 129,000 health care buildings. Although utility costs only average about one percent of the hospital expenses, the health care industry still accounts for 11 percent of all U.S. commercial energy use.

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