Owners and operators of healthcare facilities in Massachusetts are currently talking about three things: patient care, the uncertainty surrounding healthcare funding and energy. We learned as much at Bisnow’s recent State of Healthcare event, where experts found consensus around the concept of “bringing care to the patient” (instead of the other way around). And while HVAC may not typically be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a big city hospital or a local urgent care center, you might be surprised to find out how HVAC systems are directly correlated to all three of these hot topics.
- The air you breathe directly impacts your health.
There is no big surprise here, just an important fact that becomes even more important in a hospital or medical office setting. Indoor air quality is impacted by a building’s ventilation and air conditioning systems, which require routine service and maintenance. This schedule service and maintenance not only keeps the systems running at peak efficiency, but also minimizes the risk of air contamination from moisture-based mold or bacteria and illness such as Aspergillosis. It goes without saying that health, safety and care for the patient are top priorities, so these facilities can’t afford to take the risk of poor air quality. This effort has gained significant notoriety through organizations such as the Joint Commission, an independent entity that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations in the U.S. As a result, careful planning and consideration goes into the engineering, installation and operations and maintenance of any HVAC component, system or equipment.
- There is work to be done (even in times of uncertainty).
The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and today’s discussions of the potential American Health Care Act have each stirred up questions about what’s next for those working in and relying on the healthcare industry. And while answers to those questions still remain unclear, healthcare networks are exploring new ways to stay competitive and flexible in order to serve the needs of their patients. Expanding resources through mergers and acquisitions, moving outpatient facilities to suburban communities, incorporating retail into medical campuses and bringing web-based tools to the patient experience are just handful of the steps being taken. So how does HVAC play into the equation? Well, in a time of uncertainty it’s conceivable to expect decision makers to act more conservatively when it comes to capital investments. In order to keep things running smoothly, it's vital to stay on top of annual preventative maintenance for critical HVAC systems, including HVAC chiller maintenance. And while a large, new innovative spaces garner headlines and attention, it is the investments in energy-efficient mechanical retrofits – such as chiller service or air handling unit (AHU) replacements – that deliver ROI to building owners faster, and with a longer-lasting impact. This leads us to our third point…
- The demand for energy savings opportunities is on the rise.
News broke last month that leading hospitals in the Greater Boston Area have successfully reduced total energy usage and total emissions by nearly 10 percent and 30 percent respectively over the past five years. The results are part of a larger, collective effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide as part of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission Health Care Working Group and Boston’s Climate Action Plan, and thus far equate to a combined total of $15 million in energy cost savings for the hospitals that participated. As proof of such success becomes more mainstream, healthcare facility teams will expand their reach for energy savings opportunities across all areas of their portfolios. In terms of mechanical systems and equipment, this likely means an increase in demand for high-efficiency boiler system retrofits, cogeneration plants for combined heat and power, and other methods for identifying energy savings such as retro-commissioning projects for existing buildings.
The round-the-clock operations and high demands for air flow and air quality at hospitals makes HVAC an especially critical concern for building engineers and facility managers. It is important to build strong partnerships with trusted, professional service contractors that have the training and experience specific to active healthcare environments. A good engineer, technician and their staff will navigate you through any challenges, provide insight into the best path forward, and ultimately keep you out of trouble and the facility running smoothly.
 Ferenc, Jeff. “Boston hospitals continue to set pace for reducing emissions,” Health Facilities Management, May 11, 2017. http://www.hfmmagazine.com/articles/2918-boston-hospitals-continue-to-set-the-pace-for-reducing-emissions?utm_source=trendinglinks&utm_campaign=beta1&utm_medium=referral
 Metropolitan Boston Health Care Energy & Greenhouse Gas Profile: 2011 through 2015, and 2020 Projection. Boston Green Ribbon Commission & Healthcare Without Harm. May 2017. https://noharm-uscanada.org/sites/default/files/documents-files/4723/Report-Boston%20Health%20Care%20Energy%20Profile-May%202017.pdf