Saving money on energy is as much about changing behavior as it is looking to new technology, according to Brian Olsen at Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Olsen is director of support services at the hospital, which last week was presented with an award from Efficiency Vermont at the 8th annual “Best Practices Exchange,” held at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel in Killington.
The hospital was recognized for work it’s undertaken to upgrade two air handling devices that save energy and allow for better control of airflow within the building, benefiting operating room equipment and overall patient comfort. That and better technology to track and control energy usage will save an estimated $90,000 per year.
“Our two air handlers that service the east side of the main hospital were replaced in 2017,” said Olsen. “This was done for many reasons, chiefly for improved air flow, humidity controls and more efficient use of energy.”
He said that during the 2019 calendar year, the hospital saw a reduction of 378,000 kWh, or about 35 homes worth of electricity.
There’s a great deal of support for these efforts at the hospital’s executive level, but credit, he said, is due to the planners.
“We also have a lot of commitment from our frontline staff,” he said in an interview Monday. “Those are the guys who I think really deserve the credit for all of this. They have gone through the drawings, they’re the experts on all of this. Without them, none of this happens.’
The hospital has teams dedicated to electrical work, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditions, “really the main folks that get in there and review all the plans, the specs on things, without those guys none of this happens,” said Olsen. “I can sit behind a desk and say this is a great idea, but they’re the ones who know how to make it work.”
Much of the hospital’s energy saving efforts have been more about behavior change, not new projects or technology, he said.
“A lot of it is self-monitoring, and in my own opinion it’s behavioral modification,” he said. “Do we need to be running blanket warmers 24 hours a day when the space is unoccupied for 10 of those hours? It’s a lot of things like that, what Efficiency Vermont would call ‘easy wins.’ Things that are low cost but high-impact is really the initial focus, that’s what you can do without having to have a capital infusion.”
Technology and new ways of configuring things do play their part, however, but even so, the focus remains on people. Olsen said money has been put into training staff and professional development.
“You’re not going to learn anything outside the four walls of the building if you’re here all the time,” he said. “We’ve been putting an emphasis on that, we’ve budgeted for training and education so those things can occur.”
He said the main obstacle to energy efficiency, from the hospital’s perspective, are the upfront costs. “You’d love to do every single one of these things, but that’s a limiting reality,” he said. “There’s only so much funding available, especially when you’re talking about the other things in the hospital needing to be upgraded, new equipment, technology, there’s only so much support to go around.”
Also recognized by Efficiency Vermont were Ben & Jerry’s in St. Albans, Shaw’s Supermarkets, which has 19 Vermont locations, Keurig Dr. Pepper in Essex Junction, Long Falls Paperboard in Brattleboro, DuBois & King in South Burlington, and Tyson Moulton, director of facilities at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans.