By Clark A. Reed, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
“How do you know where you're going, unless you know where you've been?” It's a powerful question to ponder whether you're on the yellow brick road to Oz or in a business setting trying to figure out what to do next. Because what lies at the heart of this question is the belief that you must track how far you've come in order to know how far you have left to go. In facility management, measuring progress is sometimes easier said than done. Not only do you need a baseline to benchmark from, you also need a clear destination. Historically, healthcare engineers in the U.S. and abroad have not had an easy way to gauge the energy performance of their hospitals, or for that matter a destination to shoot for. But in 2001, that changed.
For the past decade, thousands of hospitals, schools, hotels, and other organizations have partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) voluntary ENERGY STAR program to demonstrate environmental leadership and adopt energy best management practices that produce twice the energy savings as typical approaches. Many ENERGY STAR partners have asked us for guidance, especially for energy performance tracking tools and targets. We responded by creating the national energy performance rating system, now available to fifty percent of the commercial building spaces in the U.S. including office buildings, K-12 schools, hotels, supermarkets, and hospitals.
Facility managers who replace lights, install variable speed drives, tune up or commission, install low-E windows, join a voluntary program, or design better than code expect to have energy efficient buildings. Intuitively, this makes sense. After all, today's building components are at least 30% more efficient than twenty years ago. However, analysis of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey data reveals a surprising fact: the energy intensity (kBtus per square foot per year) of U.S. buildings varies by 200–400 percent, regardless of the year of construction (See Graphic 1). In short, a building built today may not automatically perform better than one constructed thirty years ago, hospitals included.
ENERGY STAR believes that facility managers need to know how their buildings perform in order to make the most effective management decisions. Just knowing you have energy efficient equipment isn't enough. Knowing your actual energy consumption however will enable you to confirm your intuition, evaluate maintenance, ensure proper equipment installation, or implement other practices that save significant amounts of energy.
The U.S. energy performance rating system uses a 1–100 scale to give relative meaning to energy use. Hospitals rating high on the scale are considered to be better energy performers (lower energy use) than those with low ratings (higher energy use). A rating of fifty (50) is defined as the industry average. So a hospital with a rating of seventy-five (75) means that it performs better than 75% of similar hospitals across the U.S. Or to put it another way, 25% of similar hospitals perform equal to or better than this one. A U.S. hospital that rates in the top 25% is considered a “top performer” and eligible to receive the EPA's award for superior energy performance, the ENERGY STAR label. Hospitals outside the U.S. cannot apply for the building label at this time.
Jean Lupinacci, ENERGY STAR's chief of commercial buildings, cautions the rating system is more than just about winning labels. “While only the top 25% of hospitals will receive a label-qualifying score, hospitals anywhere along the scale can use the rating system as a regular part of their monthly energy management activities”, she says. “Setting performance goals and tracking changes to your baseline rating is the real value of this system.”
Indeed many of the 4,000 (and growing) users of the rating system, who have already benchmarked over 20,000 buildings, are asking their energy service and product providers to incorporate ENERGY STAR into their service contracts. Baselining is a common request. We're also beginning to see an interest in specifying RFP language to guarantee performance rating increases for a given upgrade package. Given its widespread application, the EPA's energy performance rating system is fast becoming the miles-per-gallon equivalent for buildings in the commercial sector. Since few organizations outside the U.S. have used this rating system to date, no studies have been conducted to determine the validity of international scores.
The U.S. energy performance rating system is accessible to the public for free through ENERGY STAR's website at www.energystar.gov/benchmark. Users create their own private password-protected account in the "Portfolio Manager" benchmarking tool. For hospitals, the tool is a "campus-based" application; meaning users are asked to describe basic features of their hospital campus or stand-alone facility.
Our model recognizes that energy intensity is a function of the business activity, the climate, and the choice of fuel mix. Analysis of data obtained from the Electric Power Research Institute's (EPRI) Energy Benchmarking Survey (1997) indicates that hospital energy intensity in the U.S. is related to the following key characteristics which are queried in the rating tool:
Once the hospital space has been defined, users enter energy consumption data from utility bills or an energy management system. At least twelve months of data are needed to receive a rating and users have the option of baselining even further back in time to see trends in energy performance. For those wanting to track the cost per square foot over time, cost is also listed as an optional field.
Energy performance ratings are automatically calculated and immediately available to the user. Ratings are weather normalized to account for the year-to-year variations in the weather. So if the weather is more severe one year than the 30 year average for that location, the algorithm adjusts the rating upwards (or vice versa for milder weather) to avoid “penalizing” the facility for using more energy than normal. International users of Portfolio Manager can weather-normalize their score by choosing the city associated with their country in the drop-down menu. The accuracy of the rating will decrease the farther the hospital is from the listed city.
Since increasing your facility's energy performance will lead to lower operating costs, increased competitiveness, and greater pollution prevention, the only direction to go now is up, wherever profitable. Although the U.S. energy performance rating system does not identify specific buildings on a campus to upgrade or prescribe specific actions to increase performance (that's better left to energy auditors and other professionals), ENERGY STAR informs American users that the ratings can provide general recommendations.
Hospitals in this category have the most attractive returns for capital investments. Look for opportunities to upgrade lighting and other significant energy using systems, including system coordination. Renewing the commitment of senior executives to energy management will be an important component to your strategy.
Hospitals with mid-range benchmarks should consider low- or no-cost activities such as re-commissioning campus buildings, developing and implementing preventative maintenance plans, increasing employee training, or re-assessing incentive, recognition, and reward systems to ensure that they drive energy performance. Often, these relatively low-cost efforts can turn these facilities into “top performers”.
Hospitals within this range are among the highest energy performers compared to U.S. hospitals. Facility managers may consider sharing their energy management plans and operational strategies with other hospitals in their system. And they can continue to improve performance. Many hospitals have told us they increased in score from the mid- 70’s to the upper 80’s.
If you intend to generate a Portfolio Manager score, recognize its limitations. Your rating shows how your hospital compares to U.S. building codes, operational best practices, and building stock. Your country's codes and practices may differ substantially from that in the U.S. so your Portfolio Manager rating may not be a true indicator of performance against the peers in your own country. Nevertheless, your rating can be used to compare your facility to itself over time, to other facilities in your organization's portfolio, or to similar U.S. hospitals.
While there are many different forms and examples of successful approaches to energy management, ENERGY STAR has identified seven essential elements for a high-performance energy management strategy (See Diagram 1). The best performing organizations in the U.S. make these steps part of an on-going management process. How does your current strategy compare?
After establishing a baseline of energy performance with Portfolio Manager, set measurable energy performance goals. For example, a hospital may initially baseline at a 50, the U.S. industry average and set a goal of reaching a 57 by year’s end, and a four-year goal of attaining a 75.
The Action Plan is the document that establishes how the goals and objectives will be achieved. It specifies project milestones and completion dates as well as responsible parties, budget requirements, and a methodology for prioritizing energy performance opportunities. In short, the Action Plan ensures there is a systematic approach in place to implement continuous energy management activities.
Action plans focused on a whole-building approach can save twice as much as the typical technology-based approach, prevent over-sizing, and minimize equipment costs. How? Building system interactions. Use your knowledge of how different systems influence energy demand (such as how inefficient, heat producing, lighting causes HVAC systems to work harder) to your advantage. The ENERGY STAR staged approach synthesizes these interactions into a systematic method for planning upgrades that enables you to maximize energy savings. The stages are:
Reaching targets and goals ultimately depends on the motivation and capability of people who implement the Action Plan. Training helps staff understand the importance of energy performance, provides them with the knowledge and information necessary to make informed decisions, and demonstrates the commitment of senior management.
Do the numbers. Did you achieve the desired results? The insight you get will tell you where your organization's strengths and weaknesses lie and suggest ways to improve performance.
Work closely with your Public Relations department to publicize your results and distinguish your hospital as an environmental steward. An effective communications effort will help you leverage the momentum of early successes, making it easier to implement future energy management activities.
Sustained energy performance requires a commitment to an on-going, integrated, and systematic approach to energy management. Use the seven elements above to your competitive advantage. You will improve efficiency, enhance profits, and improve the quality of our air. And that looks good to people all across the globe.
* Acute Care, Children's Hospitals, and medical office buildings are the only eligible healthcare space-types to use the rating system at this time. Ratings generated by Portfolio Manager for Cancer Centers, Rehabilitation Centers, clinics, and Psychiatric Hospitals may be invalid since their energy profiles may differ from acute care hospitals or medical offices