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For Island Health, energy efficiency comes from cooperation

Deanna Fourt, Vancouver Island Health Assocation
For energy-efficient upgrades in a busy hospital, Island Health's Deanna Fourt prefers to rely on in-house maintenance staff to maximize flexibility.

Working closely with management, utilizing facility staff, key to efficiency upgrades

In a busy hospital emergency ward, keeping the lights on can be a matter of life and death. So making the switch to energy efficient technology is a delicate operation.

For Island Health, the successful approach is to gain the full support of upper level management, then work with the people who know the facility best.

"We create graphs and charts that keep senior management up-to-date on what we're doing and what our goals are," says Deanna Fourt, Island Health's director of energy efficiency and conservation.

Island Health works with BC Hydro's Leaders in Energy Management program on its energy efficiency projects.

"Including management in our planning helps get the budget we need for our projects, and by having their support, we get access to all the various departments in health care," says Fourt.

Royal Jubilee Hospital upgrades lighting, saves money

Island Health provides care to 765,000 people across Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and parts of the Sunshine Coast.

The recent lighting upgrade in the Diagnostics and Treatment Centre of Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital highlights some of the reasons changing the light bulbs in health care facilities requires coordination across departments.

The diagnostics and treatment centre includes the hospital's emergency room — the largest on Vancouver Island — as well as around-the-clock operating rooms and care facilities. With all those lights on all the time, upgrading to efficient lighting has a significant impact on energy use.

The challenge? How to get the upgrades done cost-effectively with minimal disruption to hospital operations.

Working with in-house maintenance staff offers flexibility

Fourt and her team like to get as much work as possible done by in-house facilities staff, which she says tend to be more flexible and able to work around department schedules.

"In a busy hospital, getting the work done may mean doing one room or one small area at a time," she says. "And, if there are a lot of patients in one area and we can't work there right away, [the in-house staff] is able to wait, and go work on something somewhere else.

"It would be much harder to do if we had to contract the work out."

Cooperative strategy leads to energy efficiency success

Island Health's cooperative strategy has been getting results. In addition to lighting, other recent upgrades include:

  • The installation of a new, high-efficiency, heat recovery chiller at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. Instead of venting the waste heat outside, this new chiller recovers the heat and uses it to preheat domestic water or to provide space heating where required.
  • Coil cleaning at Victoria General Hospital, Campbell River Hospital, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni. Cleaning the coils and filters in the HVAC system lowers energy consumption by reducing the amount of work done by the fan as it drives air through building.
  • Construction of a new emergency room for the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital that incorporates numerous energy saving features, such as day lighting, automated window shading, radiant panels, and direct digital temperature control.

Partnerships help get everyone involved

Working with various departments in the organization has also been fundamental to both internal engagement and community outreach for VIHA's energy efficiency strategy.

In partnership with the communications and IT departments, Fourt and her team have created newsletters, websites that offer green tips, and even run internal contests that help promote energy efficiency and boost staff engagement in all VIHA's care locations.

Because senior management support is so critical to success, Fourt has put a lot of thought into how to engage them. This includes keeping management involved with what has been completed, projects currently underway, and importantly, the options for what can be done.

"Having BC Hydro support has been very helpful in getting executives involved," says Fourt. "Our five-year Strategic Energy Management Plan shows what we're achieving — and what's possible. Management responds well to that."