OSF HealthCare, a 15-hospital Catholic health care organization based in Illinois, has completed more than 100 energy conservation projects since 2019. One of the biggest has been to fully integrate its building automation system (BAS), controlling all aspects of the mechanical and utility systems at the 149-bed OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, Ill.

Building controls had been a mix of direct digital control and pneumatic systems at St. Joseph, which opened at its present location in 1967, says Joshua Meade, director of facilities planning and operations. 

“Once we started looking more deeply into this campus and how to get everything to communicate on one system, it teed up the opportunity to replace and install the BAS from bumper to bumper,” Meade says.

The initial phase of the BAS project, starting with critical spaces such as operating rooms and the sterile processing department, was recently completed. The second phase is to complete the heating and cooling plant that supplies all the utility needs of the buildings on the hospital campus, including two medical office buildings, Meade says. Target completion date is the end of 2022.

The OSF HealthCare system in Illinois dates back more than 144 years, says Michael Keefe, manager of energy and sustainability. 

“As our footprint has expanded through growth and acquisitions, we see facilities of many different ages and conditions. A lot of the operational systems are not automated, and others are automated but use different software,” Keefe says. 

This fragmentation of HVAC controls makes it difficult to consistently conserve energy.

“Our work at St. Joseph is notable for a hospital of this size, because for the first time we have completed a front-to-back, wall-to-wall integration of a BAS in line with our standards,” Keefe says. The project wasn’t planned as a BAS laboratory for the system, but it is assumed that lessons learned will be applicable to other OSF hospitals.

“There are opportunities to use these tools to implement optimization and efficiency strategies, such as scheduling occupied and unoccupied zones in the hospital. There’s a lot you can do once you have web-enabled, digital control over all of the operating systems,” Keefe continues.

In the 12 months ending June 30, 2022, St. Joseph reduced its energy use intensity by 4.7%. Much of the program’s success has relied on energy efficiency incentive programs from local utility companies. “We wouldn’t be doing half as many projects without the benefit of these utility programs,” Keefe says. “In 2021, across the entire OSF system, we realized $1 million in energy incentives. It all adds up.”