UW Today

This is an archived article.

June 19, 2010

UW team wins $1.3 million to radically reduce hospital energy use

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has announced that University of Washington researchers, with the architectural firm NBBJ, will receive a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to extend nationally a model that reduces hospital energy use by 60 percent.

The work of the UW team reflects a fundamental game change. Once upon a time, it was enough to create a building that was energy efficient. Now the goal is net zero: the structure creates as much energy as it uses.

“Hospitals and health facilities are second only to fast-food restaurants in energy consumption. They consume approximately 4 percent of all energy used in the U.S., so lowering the amount is very important,” said Joel Loveland, a professor of architecture who directs the Integrated Design Lab at the university. He and Heather Burpee, a UW research associate in architecture, lead Target 100, which is named for an energy use index and reflects the goal of significantly increasing energy efficiency.

Together with experts who aided the initial research, Loveland and Burpee will model energy strategies for hospitals in Seattle; Miami; Phoenix; San Francisco; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and Minneapolis.

The UW team’s initial strategies were included by NBBJ in the new Montlake Tower under construction at the UW Medical Center. Also, ZGF Architects is considering more extensive use of these strategies for the patient tower addition to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Mahlum Architects is considering them for its Living Building hospital for Peace Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor.

The work addresses the 2030 Challenge instituted by Architecture 2030, an environmental advocacy group. Architects, engineers and building owners are adopting the goal, which targets a greater reduction in energy use every five years. Buildings constructed by 2030 are to be net-zero energy consumers. For buildings that will begin operating between 2010 and 2015, the goal is a 60 percent reduction from standard operational use.

The UW team’s research so far demonstrates that there is little additional cost — about 2 percent — for their strategies.

Part of the group’s work is based on contemporary Scandinavian hospital designs that consistently use one quarter to one half the energy of their American counterparts. Along with energy efficiency, Scandinavian strategies include abundant use of daylight from windows that open and close.

The UW researchers found heating the biggest target for energy reduction. In the U.S., more than 50 percent of hospital energy is used to heat space or water. It’s ironic, says the researchers’ report, because study of a 225-bed hospital in the Puget Sound region found that “hospitals generate enough heat from internal mechanical or electrical sources to need no additional heat until the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees.” And in the Seattle region, that kind of cold rarely happens.

This new kind of hospital integrates goal setting, energy modeling, and the means to verify performance from initial conception to building operation. It also targets three key systems with a number of strategies:

Architecture:

• Increase use of daylighting.

• Use solar heating when possible.

• Balance heat loss and environmental comfort with high-performance equipment.

Building systems:

• Separate tempering of air temperature from ventilation air.

• Optimize heat recovery from interior spaces and large internal equipment.

• Turn off equipment not in use.

Plant systems:

• Use advanced heat recovery at the central plant with heat pumping or enhanced heat recovery chillers and highly efficient boilers. Also use ground-sourced heat exchange.

Researchers emphasize that their strategies work in concert: to get that 60 percent increase in energy efficiency, the means must be bundled.

The UW award builds on health design research at the College of Built Environments’ Integrated Design Lab for Puget Sound.  Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, through its BetterBricks initiative, has supported the lab’s work the last four years.

The energy department grant is one of 58 totaling more than $76 million funneled from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The goal is more energy-efficient buildings and training for technicians who maintain commercial buildings.

Along with Loveland and Burpee, the research team includes Solarc Architecture and Engineering Inc., NBBJ, TBD Consultants Inc., Cameron MacAllister Group, Mahlum, and Mortenson Construction. Substantial matching support comes from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance BetterBricks program.

To read “Targeting 100,” go to http://www.betterbricks.com/graphics/assets/documents/Targeting100_ExecutiveSummary_Final.pdf

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For more information, contact Loveland at 206-616-6566 or loveland@uw.edu; Burpee at 206-616-6566 or burpeeh@uw.edu.