H3 – Saving Money and Carbon with Hospital Energy Treasure Hunts

Music Row 5

Health care facilities are the second most energy-intensive commercial building type in the United States, spending nearly $7 billion on energy use every year. Paradoxically, through increases in consumption-based emissions, the sector that heals may also be a sector that harms. A recent study  demonstrates that the U.S. health care sector’s pollution burden represents 10% of national GHG emissions, 10% of US smog formation, and 12% of acid rain, for over 400,000 emissions-attributed disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) from pollution-related disease. Achieving greater resource efficiency in health care facilities is thus not only an urgent public health need, it represents an institutional opportunity to minimize facility operating costs so as to be able to spend more on patient care.

Fortunately, the U.S. health care sector has remedy within its reach. In general, health care facilities collect abundant data in order to track energy and water use, as well as solid waste. Through case studies, this session will demonstrate how, using no-cost tools and resources for energy, water, and waste efficiency offered by US EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, health care facilities are able to contextualize and act on this data to improve their performance, resulting in cost and emissions savings. In particular, we will examine a case study in the orchestration and deployment of an Energy Treasure Hunt, a form of onsite team-led “audit” that, in the context of our example, was a collaborative partnership between hospital staff and facility managers, and mechanical engineers from the private sector. We will look in to the process and results of the Hunt, and the actions and savings outcomes that followed.

An Energy Treasure Hunt is an onsite two-day event pioneered by Toyota and popularized by EPA’s ENERGY STAR program that engages employees across all departments. It is the culmination of months of planning, building teams, collecting data, selecting calculation tools, and engaging leadership. The primary question of an Energy Treasure Hunt is “How do I take what I already have and make it more efficient?”

Cross-functional teams walk through facilities to identify low-cost energy savings opportunities including behavioral, operational, and maintenance actions. The teams analyze the benefits of potential energy conservation measures, develop energy and cost-saving calculations, and report their findings to senior leadership. Facility operations work to implement a tiered approach to cost-effective implementation and build a culture of continuous improvement.

Treasure Hunts are not one-time events. Over the short-term, the savings generated often put them back on the calendar to find more. Over the long term, they establish a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration. They motivate employees to develop their energy knowledge, spark ownership of energy-saving strategies, and pursue innovation.

EPA’s Energy Treasure Hunt Guide presents a step-by-step approach to follow, including checklists and equipment system calculators. Organizations like Toyota, Hanes, and Merck have reported tremendous cost and energy savings from Energy Treasure Hunts. Bristol-Myers Squibb has implemented Energy Treasure Hunts across eight facilities, which identified 285 projects worth $9.1 million in cost savings and over 528,000 MMBtu in energy savings.