Healthcare organizations account for four percent of the nation’s billable square footage, yet they consume more than eight percent of the nation’s energy annually. And their costs, along with demand, are sky rocketing as baby boomers age and key resources (oil, water, etc.) grow scarce. Sustainability, it would seem, is on the mind of every hospital executive in America. And if it’s not, it should be. In this installment of the Green Line Series, Trennis Jones, Senior Vice President at Seton Healthcare Family, gives us the big picture breakdown for sustainability’s business case in healthcare.
GoGreen Conference: Let’s start big picture. This is a transformative time for healthcare — lots of questions are being asked on how it can improve, how it can increase the quality of care and how it can be more financially efficient. From your perspective, what is the overarching vision in your industry for how sustainability can make an impact on what you do?
Trennis Jones: If you look at hospitals alone — we use about 836 trillion BTUs of energy annually. We produce a little over 30 pounds of CO2 emissions per square foot — broken down, that is more than 2.5 times the energy intensity in carbon dioxide emissions for commercial office buildings. So, if U.S. hospitals spend over $5 billion annually on energy — often equaling one to three percent of a typical operating budget — that works out to about fifteen percent of the profits. That’s a big chunk.
Then you have in-patient facilities, which use an average of 240,000 BTUs per square foot. Hospitals account for four percent of the national billing square footage, but we account for eight percent of national energy consumption on average. That four percent of difference represents a big opportunity for us. The question is: How do we capitalize on that and not lose the sight of the fact that our number one goal is to care for our patients better?
Big picture for us involves looking at how we can construct and renovate better. How can we construct that building going up differently than we would have in the past in order to be greener and more efficient? We recently finished construction on Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin. That building was constructed with the vision of it being a “green hospital.” In fact, it was the first LEED platinum hospital in the world. And even though we just closed out on the main building, we are adding on a new unit that will feature at a 20-kilowatt photovoltaic array for the solar water heating system that will reduce energy consumption for that unit by three percent. With the future in mind, we are also installing three electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for patients who are driving progress by owning an EV.
GG: Obviously these initiatives are already having an effect on Seton’s bottom-line. Do you feel sustainability can directly affect the quality of patient care as well?