By Clark A. Reed, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The buildings in which we work, shop, regain health, and educate our children use about $80 billion worth of electricity and natural gas each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These buildings use much of their energy at peak times, helping drive the need for new power generation and more natural gas. They also contribute about 20% of our national emissions of greenhouse gases.
In response to this growing concern, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called on healthcare organizations and other commercial building owners across the country to join the ENERGY STAR Challenge to improve energy efficiency by 10 percent (or more) to conserve energy, save money, and protect our environment. Widespread participation would produce significant benefits for the country. EPA estimates that if each building owner took on the Challenge, by 2015 Americans would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions from 15 million vehicles, while saving $10 billion.
More than 20 associations and states joined together last March in Washington, D.C. and pledged to support the ENERGY STAR Challenge with educational campaigns and public recognition for their members. The American Society for Healthcare Engineering was one of the first associations to recognize the value of improving energy efficiency for its members. “ASHE supports the ENERGY STAR Challenge,”; said Dr. Al Sunseri, Executive Director. “Every hospital that saves 10% of its energy will reduce costs and improve public health and the environment. The engineers at these hospitals will distinguish themselves as leaders in best practices and managerial excellence. And that’s a goal worthy of any healthcare professional. Leaders like New York Presbyterian Hospital already are showing that energy waste in buildings can be reduced by 10%, 20%, and 30% or more without compromising patient comfort or indoor air quality.”
The ENERGY STAR Challenge asks businesses and institutions across the country to identify the many buildings where financially attractive improvements can reduce energy use by 10% or more, and to make the improvements now through proven methods such as low-cost building tune-ups, lighting upgrades, and replacement of old equipment. The ENERGY STAR Challenge is promoting three important actions:
Dr. Al Sunseri recently sat down with the author to discuss the ENERGY STAR Challenge and to understand how members might benefit.
Sunseri: ENERGY STAR is already working with many healthcare organizations across the country. Why issue a challenge now?
Author: Based on experience with our partners, EPA is confident that many buildings can cost-effectively reduce energy use by 30%. By issuing a 10% Challenge, EPA is encouraging businesses and organizations nationwide to take the first steps toward identifying these buildings and improving performance. With rising fuel prices, we feel the timing for this campaign could not be better.
Sunseri: How will meeting the Challenge distinguish hospitals?
Author: EPA will highlight organizations that meet the Challenge on the EPA Web site as they qualify for each improvement milestone, and publish a list every October in conjunction with National Energy Awareness Month. Those on the list are official partners in the ENERGY STAR program; they’ve submitted a partnership letter to EPA and have reduced energy waste by at least 10%. We call them ENERGY STAR Leaders. Hospitals with the ENERGY STAR Leaders designation can further distinguish themselves by highlighting it during JCAHO inspections and using the documentation to show continuous improvement in energy performance. Hospitals can use Leaders to promote efficiency improvements to patients, employees, and their community as well.
Sunseri: Obviously, the first priority of healthcare engineers is to things like life safety, infection control, reliability, and occupant comfort, which could impact energy efficiency. Does EPA’s challenge take these things into account?
Author: Hospitals that join the ENERGY STAR Challenge use EPA’s energy performance rating system to track progress. It is based on nearly 500 hospitals that face the same competing priorities like the ones you mentioned. The rating one gets reflects how that facility compares to its peers across the country; and the ratings are also adjusted for weather variations across differing climate zones.
Sunseri: What baseline year is ENERGY STAR looking at to begin measuring the 10% savings?
Author: We want to accommodate current or past energy initiatives so the baseline year from which to measure the 10% energy reduction can be as early as 2000. Given this timeframe, we believe many leading organizations will already be fairly close to achieving this target. Of course, if they have, we hope they’ll go even further to achieve a 20% or even 30% savings, if it’s cost-effective.
Sunseri: How do you account for a facility that has built additions to their main hospital since 2000? Consumption most likely will have gone up.
Author: EPA’s rating system does take new construction into account and enables you to receive comparable ratings based on varying amounts of gross square footage over time.
Sunseri: Is there a deadline for meeting the Challenge of saving 10%?
Author: No, there’s no deadline. Those who accept the Challenge are really in the driver’s seat on this, but we believe most organizations will be surprised to discover that achieving the savings is easier than they may think. If some of your members believe their facilities qualify, they may want to join quickly because EPA plans to recognize the first organizations to achieve 10% or greater savings with an event in Washington, D.C. this coming October.
Sunseri: As you know, Clark, ASHE has decided to recognize its members for participating in the Challenge and we are working out the final details in our voluntary committees.
Author: Yes, we are pleased to be working with ASHE to bring the Challenge to hospitals across the country. While EPA will recognize healthcare organizations for portfolio-wide improvements in energy performance ratings, ASHE will recognize individual members who’ve achieved improvements in their own hospital. I think our efforts are very complementary.
Sunseri: Which associations besides ASHE have agreed to support the ENERGY STAR Challenge?
Author: Currently, the ENERGY STAR Challenge has the support of more than 20 associations and states including the Building Owners and Managers Association, Real Estate Roundtable, the Association of School Board Officials, the Food Marketing Institute, US Telecom Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and the National Association of Counties, among others.
To participate in the ENERGY STAR Challenge, create an ENERGY STAR Leader’s account through EPA’s free rating system in Portfolio Manager. Baseline all your eligible facilities in Portfolio Manager and generate an average baseline score ranging from 1–100. Submit a Letter of Qualification to EPA as you update your Leaders account and meet the energy performance goals; Demonstrate improvement by increasing your portfolio’s performance rating by 10, 20, or 30 points relative to the baseline; and/or Achieve an average energy performance rating of 75 or better across your entire building portfolio; and Apply for ENERGY STAR Leaders recognition as you achieve each milestone.
Clark Reed is the National Healthcare Manager for ENERGY STAR at the U.S. EPA. Last year, ENERGY STAR helped Americans save enough energy to power 24 million homes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 20 million cars — all while saving consumers $10 billion. To join, visit ENERGY STAR’s website or contact the author at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — MC 6202J, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 202-343-9146.