The 2015 Health Facilities Management (HFM) Sustainable Operations Survey shows that efforts by hospitals and health care facilities to undertake sustainable actions are a work in progress.  

The new survey, conducted in partnership with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE), is the first by HFM on green initiatives since 2013. The full report on the survey is a highlight of this issue of Infrastructure News. 

During the two years since the last survey by HFM, hospitals have continued to make slow but steady gains in embracing sustainability issues, especially the more economically feasible actions of retrocommissioning, building automation upgrades and recycling.

Moving higher up the ladder of opportunity is proving to be something of a challenge. But that’s understandable considering that hospitals are complicated, cost- and regulatory-intensive facilities whose mission is literally life or death. Competition for funding abounds because the wide ranging clinical services and the staff required to provide those services takes money and lots of it. 

Where hospitals that are still lagging in the sustainability game may be missing out is if they operate under the faulty assumption that going green is a cost-prohibitive investment.  

Not so, as ASHE President-elect Terry M. Scott, CHFM, CHSP, SASHE, director of engineering/construction services, Memorial Hermann Northwest and Memorial Hermann Southwest hospitals, Houston, points out in our report.  

“I think sustainability is gaining ground with many CEOs, although some may think it is a costly endeavor. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Scott says. “An aggressive energy-reduction program can reduce a facility’s energy expense by $2 per sq. ft. That translates into millions of dollars saved annually.”

Memorial Hermann is proof of what can be accomplished. Scott says eight of their 10 eligible hospitals have earned the Energy Star label, saving more than $76 million in five years.

While not every hospital or system stands to accomplish savings of that magnitude all kinds of opportunities exist and resources abound to cut costs and save resources at whatever rate you and your facility’s leadership are comfortable. 

Plenty of help is available to get started or to advance with sustainability. ASHE’s Energy to Care program provides a free benchmarking and dashboard tool to measure and track a facility’s energy use.

Developed by ASHE, AHE and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management, the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals shows facilities how to implement real-world sustainability projects, enhance existing efforts and share their environmental successes with others.

The Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence guide on sustainability includes a matrix of these measures and their various investment levels. ASHE also is in the process of creating a task force to develop a list of individuals who will provide free benchmarking assistance and a roster of companies that will provide free energy audits to hospitals. These are slated to be available in January 2016.

So if you’re still hesitating, now is as good a time as any to get started by taking conservative sustainability actions. You have to start somewhere. And if you’re ready to reach higher, do it. Help is available no matter where you stand on the sustainability journey.