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Energy Conservation Measures in Existing Health Care Facilities

When it comes to energy conservation in existing Health Care Facilities specific expertise is needed to ensure your project goes smoothly right from the beginning of conception, through planning, development, implementation, and into operations.

Health Care Facilities (or HCFs) have many design and operating requirements for the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment and plumbing systems over and above those requirements relating to normal commercial or institutional facilities. The underlying reason is that HCFs are meant to function in all crisis situations, including natural disasters, times of war, disease outbreaks, power outages, and/or fuel interruptions. Every measure and precaution is to be taken in terms of the design and operation of an HCF to ensure that the ongoing care and treatment of the patients can be maintained.

While all national and local codes will certainly apply to HCFs as well as the many system or equipment specific codes and standards; the two codes that describe the heightened requirements for HVAC and plumbing in HCFs are CAN/CSA Z317.1 and CAN/CSA Z317.2.

These codes cover the general HVAC and plumbing requirements for the facility as a whole as well as those requirements that pertain to specific applications or areas such as operating rooms or isolation rooms to name a few.

To highlight some of the general facility requirements all heating systems are to be provided with a two-thirds redundancy; which is to be applied to the heating appliances, fuel and fuel storage, pumping and heat exchangers. Furthermore, certain air-handling unit applications require that 100% redundancy is provided and the heating and cooling loads are to be determined assuming 100% outdoor air conditions.

When designing and building a new hospital the application of these code requirements can be done with relative ease. These inclusions become a necessary cost of the project, and the facility is designed to accommodate all of these requirements.

However, in a retrofit scenario it can be very difficult or extremely costly to include such provisions. This should be emphasized at the early stages of planning for an energy conservation program as recommendations for energy conservation measures, where required, must include the cost impacts related to bringing the equipment or systems up to current codes. The potential budget shortfalls could provide a severe and lasting barrier to the implementation of such a conservation retrofit or the payback and investment criteria may no longer be acceptable to facility management.

When engaging services for an energy audit in a Health Care Facility the dialogue with the Authority Having Jurisdiction should be started early around issues of retrofit code compliance for issues of heating, cooling, and ventilation appliance redundancy and fuel redundancies. The list of recommended measures and their respective energy savings potential and implementation costs should be developed in conjunction with code compliance.

Since HCFs have very specific HVAC and plumbing requirements that are potentially difficult or costly to achieve in a retrofit scenario the local or regional Health Network should weigh the experience in existing HCFs very heavily when approaching engineering firms or design-build contractors to work with.


 Michael Zongor, P.Eng