Utility savings fund Saskatoon hospital upgrades

Maintenance staff 'instrumental' in planning retrofit around busy healthcare setting
Thursday, May 11, 2017
By Rebecca Melnyk

Royal University Hospital, located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, is a seven-wing, seven-storey facility that raised the standard of medical treatment in the province when it was built in 1955. Over the years, aging infrastructure and outdated, energy-wasting fixtures needed to be improved, not only for the health and wellbeing of patients and staff, but also to help mitigate the building’s environmental footprint.

After completing significant hospital upgrades last year through an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, the 1.6 million-square-foot hospital is now seeing a huge payback, almost doubling the expected savings from energy, water and operational improvements.

RUH invested $13.6 million to ultimately save $1.4 million per year. And in the first two reporting quarters, the total savings is already tallied at $899,192, surpassing the target guarantee by 48.2 per cent or $433,304.

Two team members from Johnson Controls, Randy Taylor, account executive of building efficiency, western Canada and Vincent Russell, strategic market accounts manager, Saskatchewan, along with other contractors, engineers and consultants, used energy analysis and on-site survey information to compile a list measures to improve energy consumption at the facility, which is now in a measurement and verification phase.

“A lot of measures are not specifically unique for this facility; however the facility operations teams under Brian Berzolla, the facility director (Saskatoon Health Region), are knowledgeable about how the hospital runs and the dynamics of the building. When engaging with them, they have unique perspectives of what equipment could be turned on and off and what upgrades we could do.”

Besides more standard measures with lighting, water and the building envelope, the team installed a fan wall. All fans in the wards, operating and general rooms were at the end of their life cycle, costing facilities management ongoing money to repair. Two large horsepower fans were removed in place of a wall of 15 efficient fans that provide backup. Having just two fans in the operating room caused shutdowns if one wasn’t working.

“From an operating point of view, the new fan system allows the maintenance team some redundancy to conduct service work on smaller individual fans, but more importantly, it keeps the facility running no matter what maintenance needs to be done,” adds Taylor, who when conducting an audit, found several pumps and fans were running on a constant basis.

Now, a fan only has to run for eight or 12 hours a day, and the facility gets twice as much life out of them, while reducing service costs and time.

“The EPC allowed us to find dollars to do a whole pile of improvements and be paid back by the money we would have spent on utilities,” Berzolla said in a previous interview with Johnson Controls. “We’re saving more money than was anticipated and making payments on the loan, but we have extra funds to go back into hospital operations.”

Other upgrades include replacing steam traps to reduce losses and keep the system working efficiently to meet the required temperature and use less fuel.

“I’ve been in some of the steam tunnels and if we didn’t have the cooperation of the staff we probably wouldn’t have found 50 per cent of what we needed to find,” adds Russell. “Some things that really needed to be done were steam trap replacements that are difficult to find and isolate and changing toilets from 1955 that were wasting water, but logistically very difficult to get to.”

After more than 16,000 lighting fixtures were reviewed, lamps and ballasts of older lights were retrofitted because adjusting existing fixtures offered greater savings with little occupant impact. Also, incandescent or compact fluorescent lamps were replaced with LEDS to reduce energy and also service in hard-to-reach spaces.  Common areas are no longer dark and dreary, but light now brightens high-traffic areas where staff and visitors move through on the way to patient care or treatment centres.


mall after lighting retrofit

Johnson Controls also switched antiquated, inefficient toilets for low-flow and efficient faucet, shower and urinal fixtures to decrease water use by 60 per cent. This amounts to an annual savings of about 29 Olympic size swimming pools.

Insulated covers were also installed on 325 portions of the steam distribution system to reduce wasted heat energy, making the system work less to meet the required temperature. Since certain areas of the campus are unoccupied at night and weekends, occupancy sensors were connected. Digital controls provide operators with better information to control the environment, such as adding schedules to the HVAC system.

Overall, the annual energy savings is equivalent to reducing the usage of 933 homes, and offsetting carbon emissions from 12,016 barrels of oil.

Working with maintenance staff and facility challenges

The process to a more efficient facility hasn’t come without challenges, such as shutting down air handling equipment that may be coming from a lab and considering what kind of containment is needed from a safety aspect.

“One of the other big challenges was the location of the hospital on a river bank,” says Taylor. “There are also two wings built in different years and the technology was old. Also, next door, they’re building the Saskatchewan Children’s Hospital, so getting material in and out of the facility without hampering hospital operations was a big challenge.”

“Hospitals are very challenging environments due to the fact they operate 24/7, are big users of energy, and are a little more complicated than an office or school,” adds Russell. “So, it was a key win to take everyone’s ideas, boil them down and put them to action, on time and on budget.”

Once all improvements were made, the team worked to attain more savings by looking at fresh air intake, equipment schedules and sequencing and other measures. Going forward, maintenance staff will now have to service variable frequency speed drives, a device connected to an electric fan or motor that reduces frequency so the motor slows down and efficiency is gained. For example, fewer staff in an area means less air. As staff increases, the speed drive provides more air. The process prolongs the life of equipment and saves run time.

Along the way, on-site maintenance staff were crucial for planning around a busy healthcare environment, helping to organize work after hours or during downtime so it wouldn’t affect day-to-day operations.

“A large part of this project was the scheduling of time for when the contractors could perform their work,” Berzolla said. “The region’s capital planning and project management staff was instrumental in making sure that the right people were in the right place at the right time so that patients and staff were minimally impacted.”

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