Hospital Chooses Long-Term Savings in Retrofit

EL DORADO, Kan. — The Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital recently began a $3 million energy savings retrofit project, with Schneider Electric serving as general contractor and lead designer. The project is currently in the construction phase, with completion scheduled for April of 2013. The hospital’s main building, medical plaza and dialysis center will all get some upgrades, such as replacing an aging steam power plant with a new water system employing boilers, in addition to several changes involving electrical and lighting functions. Schneider will also make a few changes to increase the comfort levels of patient rooms and physician offices. The hospital will still use a smaller steam system for some very specific functions like the sterilization of medical tools and instruments. Schneider’s work is guaranteed to provide the hospital with a 31 percent energy cost savings per year over the 15-year life of the contract and eliminate the equivalent of 567 cars per year in terms of cutting carbon emissions.

Jordan Lerner, regional director of sales and engineering for Schneider Electric, explained that several changes, such as lighting retrofits, occupancy sensors that control when lights are on, and automation systems that optimize power use, all serve the dual purpose of expending less energy and extending the life of equipment the hospital depends on. Lerner compared automatically turning equipment off when not in use to having fewer years on a car’s odometer; the product will simply last longer if it isn’t running when no one is using it. He added that the automation system would not only regulate electrical use to match the facility’s daily and weekly schedules, but would also make seasonal adjustments throughout the year to adjust for the effects of the outdoor environment on the controlled climate inside the building.

Lerner said one of the more unique features was an ultraviolet light system that eliminates many possible biological contaminants that the ventilation system might pull in from the outside air. He explained this was a feature rarely seen outside of the medical world.

Lerner commented that his company went into each project with the most open-minded approach possible. He said Schneider often used products and services that his company used in the past and trusted, but was willing to try something new depending on the client’s needs and wishes. He said the staff at the memorial hospital brought an equal degree of open-mindedness, which benefited the project greatly. Lerner explained the hospital staff wanted to go for efficiency upgrades with the fastest return on cost-savings possible, but signed up for a long-term approach when they learned how much more cash would be preserved with that approach. He felt that many hospitals focused less on green features than other industries because they often faced financial decisions between structural upgrades and medical equipment, but this facility seemed to buck that trend and embraced the long-term view on cost savings.

Lerner felt that one of the least recognized functions of a retrofit company like his was to serve as a mediator between various interests at a hospital, bridging the gap between the boardroom and the boiler room. He said this part of the operation went particularly smoothly in this case, as all sides seemed interested in working together to find the best solution.

Jim Poffinbarger, director of the hospital’s environmental services department, said the feeling was mutual. “Based on our time working together, we feel that Schneider Electric is best equipped to assist us in reducing our energy use and creating a more sustainable hospital that better serves our patients and staff while demonstrating our commitment to energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.”

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