By Dan Ball, President, Integrated Facilities Management
Artificial intelligence (AI) has made great strides in the technology and energy fields in recent years, affecting both the supply side of power distribution as well as the demand side for consumption. For the supply side, AI advancements—including advanced algorithms, learning computers, and IoT devices—have drastically improved archaic electrical systems across the United States. Vastly improved transmission methods combined with the ability to capture and analyze real-time data, have delivered a more efficient and effective system. These efficiencies have made the price of power more affordable and more reliable—all good news for consumers. By taking advantage of these developments and creating strategies for energy procurement and demand management, healthcare facilities can uncover cost savings of up to 20 percent.
Start with Infrastructure Improvements
Based on kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot, hospitals are some of the most power-hungry facilities in the country. These facilities utilize numerous power-consuming devices, such as air handler units (AHUs), centrifugal exhaust fans, large motors and electrical drives, HVAC systems, elevators, and more. On top of this, most healthcare facilities have not invested back into their aging infrastructure and building controls, exacerbating the energy consumption problem. It is not uncommon to have major infrastructure equipment in a healthcare facility that is well past its useful life expectancy and very inefficient in comparison to today’s technology.
With the advancements of AI, drastic improvements in energy efficiency can be made throughout healthcare facilities without hindering operations. Newly designed and improved building automation systems (BAS) provide real-time automation and local insights into power consumption through the use of IoT devices and cloud-based algorithms. The ability to sense and control building loads for heat and humidity or occupancy-based needs such as lighting have created a more efficient demand curve for healthcare facilities. There have also been vast improvements to infrastructure efficiencies through built-in programming that connects to BAS systems and uses less power to produce the same outcomes. Combined together, these dynamics equal huge potential cost savings for building owners.
Develop A Strategic Energy Management Plan
Power distribution companies have begun offering flexible pricing, for both regulated and non-regulated states, as well as the ability to lock in commodity-based contracts for longer periods of time. By utilizing supply-side pricing strategies, upgrading high-demand infrastructure, and deploying demand-side reduction strategies, facilities can reduce their overall spend in electricity by as much as 20 percent. The key is developing a holistic approach to energy management and focusing on measurement and management after solutions are implemented. This is where the use of big data and the cloud become so valuable. By establishing minimum and maximum performance criteria and comparing these metrics against real-time measurements stored in the cloud, facility managers can know the energy performance of their building, and compare those stats to similar facilities across the country, simply by glancing at their smartphone. Having that knowledge readily available enables facility managers to ensure their buildings are always running at peak performance.
Realizing that the battle for an organization’s capital spend is ever growing and highly competitive, healthcare leaders are wise to develop an overarching energy management strategy to access potential gains. The successful execution of such a plan results in better consistency and reliability in business operations and notable year-over-year cost savings. With energy being such a large percentage of operational spend, and with a critical infrastructure that is vital to operations, this is one problem that healthcare leaders can’t afford to ignore.
Dan Ball joined HHS as President of Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) in 2019, bringing with him more than 25 years of leadership experience. Throughout his career, Ball has served in both operations and sales and marketing capacities related to facilities management, environmental services, and food service, within the healthcare, business and industry, aviation, and education industries. Ball earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from East Tennessee State University, and a Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare management from Gardner-Webb University.