To fulfill the growing needs of its surrounding community, in September 2015, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health began an infrastructure expansion at Lancaster General Hospital. The project’s objective was to design and construct a plant called the Energy Center that would lower the cost of utilities, improve their reliability and reduce the environmental impact. This initiative would also make the hospital capable of serving as a fully functioning sanctuary in the event of a natural disaster or power interruption. The project was completed in March 2017.

In order to achieve the savings and operational reliability the hospital required, the new energy center of the future included a 3.5-megawatt combustion turbine, a heat recovery steam generator, a 1,000-ton steam-driven chiller, two 2-megawatt emergency generators and other associated equipment. To meet the future needs of the hospital, the combustion turbine was designed for a future increase to a 4.5-megawatt turbine, and there is space for two additional 2-megawatt emergency generators. 

Upon reflecting on the project, John Hartman, senior director of facilities and construction management, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, Pa., says one significant challenge was keeping the hospital operational throughout construction. Coordinating operable equipment needed to be phased with design and energy modeling. 

Lancaster General Hospital

Project Info

  • Square feet: 31,404
  • Number of beds: N/A
  • Cost: $28 million
  • Start date: September 2015
  • Completion date: March 2017

Team Members

  • John Hartman, senior director of facilities and construction management, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, Pa.
  • Chris Flynn, health care executive, Benchmark Construction, Brownstown, Pa.
  • Dan Mountz, project manager for electrical, Herneisen Electric, Reading, Pa.
  • Jeff Ream, project manager for mechanical, James Craft and Son, Manchester, Pa.
  • Bradley Bathgate, engineer, PWI Engineering, Jenkintown, Pa.
  • Ryan Griffith, architect, Cornerstone Design Architects, Lancaster.

Prior to the project, the hospital had a basic steam and electrical system. These systems would remain for backup use when Energy Center systems were maintained. Therefore, “The new structure needed to be developed through an existing and operational boiler and chiller plant, while supporting new equipment,” Hartman says. Historical steam and chilled water load data were used to develop a load schedule and compare it to average predicted temperatures during the schedule. This information was used to determine the N+1 capacity required for steam and operational chillers at the campus. “With this insight, the team could avoid costly temporary boilers and cooling towers, which would also have delayed construction.”

With the Energy Center and various infrastructures being combined into a system where one piece of equipment directly impacts the operations and maintenance of the others, it was necessary to internally train and manage the plant from a centralized perspective. This leadership and time investment resulted in operational abilities beyond industry standards. 

Conceptual planning and modeling had the expectations of 8,088 hours (roughly 11 months) of operations annually, with four weeks of maintenance throughout the year, Hartman reports. With staff training during the plant’s commissioning, the team provided 8,400 hours of operation of the new Energy Center within its first operating year. 

Throughout the project, all hospital departments were updated on project phases. “Whether it was for a utility shutdown or needing logistical space for bed storage or an ambulance exit, communication with all departments enabled the project to be executed in a way that greatly improved the hospital’s infrastructure with as much transparency and least disruption to operations as possible,” Hartman says.

Hartman says the project’s greatest success was the coordination and communication with health care providers. “For the first time in its existence, parts of the electrical systems were shut down to allow for modifications,” he says. “Day-long shutdowns, which required running on generators, occurred on multiple weekends. We tested patterns and procedures for the first time.

“The Vista Infrastructure Award emphasizes that difficult challenges can be overcome by selecting the proper team and having open communication,” Hartman adds. “One of the most difficult decisions made at the onset was identifying the proper scope and figuring out how to execute it. Decisions were made throughout the entire project’s design and construction phases by analyzing all options, identifying potential risks and providing recommendations with sound judgement behind them.” 

The timing of the project allowed for utility rebates and state-funded grants to reduce the amount of capital required. When higher operating hours and energy procurement strategies were employed, the hospital reduced its operating costs by $938,000 the first year while increasing its infrastructure and health care capacities.