Nancy Gross 2015-06-09 10:59:40
Why go to great efforts to manage energy and the processes that employ it? Even if energy engineering is your passion, you probably also enjoy having well-performing, fresh, bright spaces where the whole of your life can go on. We may love the outdoors, but most of us spend more time indoors. Our buildings are key to the quality of our lives. I was reading up on the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) component of HVAC, and my main takeaway is to note the symbiotic relationship between IAQ and the structures we spend our time in. A poorly managed or maintained structure will have poor IAQ, and poor IAQ will degrade the structure. It may make sense to define buildings as either healthy or sick, and this can apply even to the buildings where we go to have sickness alleviated. Thus, our focus on hospitals in this issue can offer prescriptions for other kinds of facilities that serve the needs of people, too, because wellness should ripple outward from hospitals whenever possible. When people are choosing a field of study and land on health care, they will often be applauded for taking up a noble profession; they are also likely to be told that they are making a smart move, that these careers are always in demand, that they can find employment wherever they go. Likewise hospitals and health care facilities are significant businesses in all communities everywhere, creating many kinds of work. Hospitals are energy intensive with their around the clock operations and specialized equipment. Vendors in the energy space who fill orders for these properties may be looking at sizeable accounts, as well as reputation-building opportunities. While patient diagnosis, treatment and safety are foremost, the fixtures and systems that define the space do integrate with health concerns. Also, health care companies are finding it important to keep up with trends that affect other kinds of industries; some are showing that energy efficiency can be achieved without compromising health and safety. Our cover story, David Richardson’s “A Healthy Dose of Efficiency” (page 10), highlights the specific IAQ needs of hospitals, with reporting on technologies that are also employed in other commercial, industrial, and institutional settings. When I spoke with Kevin DeMaster, designer of utility rebate programs, about one of the technologies profiled, Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF), I was informed that these use a third to half as much energy to produce the same result as conventional HVAC, and there is no cycling, making the processes, he says, “quieter than a human whisper.” Many innovations in HVAC in the US, such as VRF, are not as new as they seem, but have been used in Europe for decades. They often incorporate passive processes; such peaceful systems speak to the topics of health and wellness. Saving money is important to the governing boards of many health care facilities, and even if other kinds of equipment are prioritized, this is an argument for efficiency, too. We have a submission from Kansas City Power and Light that discusses an outdoor lighting upgrade at a rural Missouri hospital which led to significant savings on costs and energy (page 48). Efficiency rebates made the LED project even more attractive to the hospital leadership. Our article on engines and gensets (page 32) is certainly relevant to the health care industry, where critical power couldn’t be more critical, both for the preservation of patient lives and patient records. Hurricane Sandy brought attention to the need for gensets and their fuel to be in the best possible shape and location should they become all that a building has to rely on. Shelter—it is among our basic needs. Moreover, we rely on buildings for our quality of life, and buildings rely on us for theirs. I propose that an old standard can be a fitting toast for ribbon cutting ceremonies at hospitals—and other properties—everywhere, but it should be said once facing the building, and again facing the crowd: “To your health!”
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