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Caring for patients and the environment

Posted Sep 11th, 2013

Greg Kuzmenko, Regional Director of Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the Niagara Health System, basks in some of the plentiful natural light that fills the new hospital in St. Catharines. Every patient room and most treatment areas in the facility are equipped with high-efficiency thermal windows.

Green design at St. Catharines hospital

• A reduction of potable water use by 20% through the use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures;

• A 29% reduction in the building’s energy consumption when compared to a standard hospital design;

• Natural light in every patient room and most treatment areas reduces electricity consumption at the same time as it improves the atmosphere;

• A monitoring system to measure the building’s energy and water consumption over time to ensure the building is operating efficiently;

• The use of materials that emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can have a negative effect on indoor air quality and can potentially harm occupants. To promote the health of patients, staff and visitors, materials used in interior spaces (e.g. paint, carpets, adhesives, sealants and wood products) will be reviewed to ensure they contain reduced levels or no VOCs; and

• The installation of a Building Automation System (BAS) to control and monitor the building systems such as boilers, chillers and Ventilation Systems.  This BAS provides rapid feedback to the building operator for temperature, airflow and humidity levels throughout the facility to provide maximum comfort to the staff, patients and visitors.

The Niagara Health System is doing double duty in its mission to provide the highest standards of care.

Hospitals are designed to help doctors, nurses and other medical professionals help sick or injured patients mend.
The NHS has added a new element of caring through its commitment to look after the environment at the same
time as it tends to patients.

Innovative design features at the new St. Catharines Site and recent investments across NHS’s other sites aim to lessen the footprint on the environment and lower long-term operating costs

The 980,805-square-foot St. Catharines Site, which opened its doors at the end of March, is one of the first hospitals in Ontario to achieve certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

“As an organization dedicated to providing care, it's important to us that we take these steps to care for the environment and reduce our impact as much as possible,” says Greg Kuzmenko, Regional Director of Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the NHS. “Not only is this the
responsible way to design and operate the new building environmentally, but also it will decrease operating costs over time.”

The NHS also recently invested approximately $10 million across all sites through an energy retrofit project that reduces energy use and operating costs. These improvements will save substantial amounts of natural gas and electricity for years to come.

The work included the replacement of boilers as well as ventilation system improvements, heating plant optimization and energy efficient lighting retrofits. Patients will notice improved comfort and lighting, better-regulated temperature control and improved fresh air flow.

The St. Catharines Site, designed by renowned Silver Thomas Hanley Architects of Australia and Bregman + Hamann Architects of Canada, has set an ambitious target of dramatically reducing energy costs through numerous conservation measures, such as its high-performance building exterior, ventilation air/heat recovery on most of the outdoor air, high-efficiency boilers and chillers, low-flow service water fixtures, efficient lighting design and the extensive use of natural light throughout the building.

“By using less energy and water, LEED-certified buildings reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a healthier environment for patients, staff and the wider community,” says Greg. “This also helps reduce the hospital’s operating costs, which benefits the entire healthcare system.”

Energy Savings

The NHS expects power-saving design features of the new site to cut its energy consumption by as much as 29% compared to a standard hospital design of a similar size.

The hospital uses thermal wheels throughout the building to capture and harness heat being expelled through its high-tech heating and ventilation system. The recovery system preheats cold, fresh air drawn into the building to reduce the burden on its overall HVAC system.

The expansive roof of the hospital is covered with a white membrane, which is designed to reflect heat from the sun, keeping the building cooler during warmer months and lowering air-conditioning costs.

Every patient room and most treatment areas in the facility are equipped with high-efficiency thermal windows. Not only do the windows capture natural light throughout the building to enhance the atmosphere for patients and staff, but also they help cut down electric lighting usage during daylight hours.

Reduced water usage

While the hospital features an unprecedented 1,400 hand-washing sinks to help curb the spread of infections, that doesn’t mean the hospital is using more water, says Kuzmenko.

The high-efficiency, low-flow plumbing fixtures installed throughout the building are expected to help the hospital decrease its water usage by 20 per cent. Contributing to the water savings, the NHS also does not have irrigation systems for the outdoor gardens and landscaping.

“The long-term savings these greening initiatives will generate through reduced energy and utility consumption will save us significant money over the life of the building,” Greg says.

Helping the hospital achieve LEED certification was the emphasis placed on green building practices during its nearly three years of construction. The building was constructed with 15 per cent recycled materials and at least 20 per cent of the materials were manufactured regionally — defined under LEED as within 800 kilometres for materials transported by truck and 2,400 kilometres if transported by rail or water.

“It’s not just about what you can do long-term to benefit the environment,” says Greg. “There’s a lot you can do straight out of the starting blocks.”

Niagara Health System