If the healthcare industry were its own patient, a checkup would be long overdue. According to a recent report, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are some of the biggest energy users, and the best medicine is a retrofit.


In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report in its series of energy retrofit guides. “The Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Health Care Facilities” identifies problem areas and offers suggestions for improving hospital and outpatient facility energy efficiency.


If there is any doubt about the need for such improvements, the document makes a strong case. According to the report, among building types, hospitals use the most energy in this country. They are second in terms of energy use intensity (energy use per square foot) at 250,000 British thermal units (Btu) per square foot. But, hospitals are second to none in terms of energy use per building. At 60,000 mmBtu (million metric Btu), they far outpace the next closest category of buildings, lodging, which consumes approximately 5,000 mmBtu. The report adds that the healthcare industry spends $8.8 billion annually on energy costs.


The report is primarily written for the building energy manager who is looking for ways to significantly improve hospital or healthcare facility efficiency. It offers various suggestions for three kinds of retrofits: existing building commissioning, whole-building retrofits and staged retrofits. Suggestions apply to various categories of improvements, including lighting, plug and process loads, building envelope, service water heaters, and heating and cooling. 


The report also highlights several case studies in which hospitals have adopted energy-­efficiency retrofits, sometimes saving as much as $5 million annually.