Decision makers at healthcare facilities worldwide identified energy management as critically important in a 2012 study. Of the 1,400-plus professionals surveyed, 86 percent stated that energy management was extremely important or very important, up from 65 percent in 2011. In addition, 70 percent said that they had adopted HVAC and/or controls improvements as energy efficiency measures in the last 12 months. Other key survey trends included heightened interest in the measurement of energy usage data and a movement toward retro-commissioning.

The study, which was conducted by the Johnson Controls Institute for Building Efficiency in conjunction with several association partners including the American Society of Healthcare Engineers, was released as the 2012 Energy Efficiency Indicator.

Energy Improvements

Commenting on the interest in energy management, Dale Kondik, healthcare solutions development leader at Johnson Controls Inc., said, “The margins in healthcare are thin. All departments in the hospital have been told to improve efficiencies, and they realize that utility savings drops to the bottom line of the profitability of the hospital. There has been increased communication within the healthcare engineering world of the success of optimization via building automation and retro-commissioning. This contributes to why there is a huge jump from our 2011 survey to 86 percent in 2012.”

When asked to list energy efficiency measures that were adopted in the last 12 months, respondents reported the top three were lighting improvements (74 percent), HVAC and/or controls improvements (70 percent), and water efficiency improvements (47 percent).

Measuring + Reviewing Data

The 2012 survey showed an increase in the way respondents measure/record energy use data. Fifty percent said they perform the function on a weekly basis, up from 41 percent in 2011. Additionally, 49 percent review/analyze data at least monthly, up from 44 percent in the previous survey.

According to Kondik, “Facilities managers are being tasked by management to continually cut costs, and they have already reduced staff to minimal levels, so they are now refocusing on utility spend. It is clear that you cannot manage what you don’t measure. With the proper information, managers can direct their efforts at low-performing areas of the hospital.”

He continued, “Knowing energy densities or other performance metrics, a manager can prioritize and make decisions. Building automation is a tool that facilities’ engineering teams and contractors can use to be more proactive versus reactive in reducing the hospital’s operational spend.”


The survey also indicates a significant interest in retro-commissioning, with more than a third of respondents citing it as a measure they have implemented in the past 12 months. This has been championed by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) in the last few years as a means of matching the changing physical plant needs of a hospital by making changes to the mechanical systems and building automation systems that can result in significant energy savings.

Many hospitals are in a state of continuous change; for example, a space that once was a recovery area may be reprogrammed to a support service use like administration. Verifying volumetric air changes and filtration levels that are appropriate for the new space use can result in utility and operational savings, according to Kondik. “By retro-commissioning we are able to provide the proper environmental conditions without over-serving the area. The savings are huge,” he said.

Contractors can use retro-commissioning as a way to differentiate the services they can offer to a healthcare facility. Since they are now offering much more than labor and parts, contractors can emphasize that retro-commissioning adds incredible value to their services. Kondik suggested contractors target key areas that have been renovated and areas that have changed use. Also, areas of high volumetric flow rates that are energy intensive (operating rooms, recovery rooms, and emergency departments) are ideal candidates for retro-commissioning.

“The investment that the hospital makes in retro-commissioning is little to none but the savings can be significant,” Kondik said. “If you have a medium-sized hospital, the savings can be six figures per year.” As an example, he referred to reheat, where the humidity is taken out of the air and then reheated to maintain comfort conditions. When this occurs, the system sometimes artificially depresses the dehumidification further than necessary and, as a result, has to compensate by reheating further than required. A simple adjustment to the building automation controls can fix this problem.

For more detailed information on the 2012 Energy Efficiency Indicator Study, visit

Publication date: 10/29/2012