Commissioning and retro-commissioning in health care facilities

Health care facilities are complex structures containing distinct and diverse spaces. Because they use so much energy on a daily basis, there are plenty of opportunities to become more energy- and cost-efficient through commissioning and retro-commissioning.


Health care facilities are complex structures containing distinct and diverse spaces—each with its own set of challenges and requirements.

A hospital, for example, typically contains offices, patient rooms, imaging facilities, laboratories, operating rooms, laundries, and cafeterias. Every area must be kept safe and hygienic, meeting rigorous standards that are both labor- and energy-intensive. Because health care facilities expend a significant amount of energy every day—from plumbing and HVAC requirements, to lighting and electrical controls—they offer many opportunities to become more energy- and cost-efficient.

RTM partners with health care clients to commission new buildings and retro-commission existing buildings, ensuring that they are designed to prioritize performance, energy savings, and reliability. For each project, RTM works with a facility's owners and employees to define the scope of work, then create a strategy to meet the client's goals. In existing buildings, the payback is generally very short, sometimes within a year or two. For new buildings, the payback usually takes a few more years.

Successful strategies for reducing energy consumption include adding building features such as well-insulated wall and roof assemblies, and increasing the efficiency of ventilation, lighting, miscellaneous electric loads, and water and space heating.

"Since hospitals use so much energy, there's lots of low-hanging fruit in new and existing buildings," said Brant Holeman, RTM project engineer. "For example, laboratories generally have a lot of air turnover; they have filtration requirements which consumes fan energy. But you might be taking this air—air that you've just taken great pains to make sure is clean and hygienic—and exhausting it outside. And you can recover some of that energy and heat, instead of wasting it."

Even a single change to energy use can lead to substantial cost savings. A recent RTM project is a medical clinic with both a business occupancy and an institutional occupancy. RTM conducted energy modeling to compare the efficiency of two different vendors for gas-fired rooftop heating units. Vendor 1 offered a variable gas firing rate, ranging from 5% to 100% in multiple increments. Vendor 2 featured only four stages: at 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% capacity. RTM determined if the clinic opted for Vendor 1, it would save approximately $20,000 a year while still meeting their demands.

"We work with every client to understand precisely what they're looking for in a commissioning project," Holeman said. "We have stock documents that we custom tailor to the client's needs. Depending on if an owner is looking for LEED certification or to meet the minimum requirements for the International Energy Conservation Code, we draw up a proposal, then continuously update our set of documents as we move forward. RTM has expertise in managing the design for a project, and acting as a commissioning authority for a third-party design."

This article originally appeared on RTM Engineering Consultants' website. RTM Engineering Consultants is a CFE Media content partner. 

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