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Saving energy in hospitals

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 23 May, 2006  (Company News)
Hospitals with several hundred beds use a great deal of energy for heating, hot water, air conditioning and running electronic equipment. Comparing key figures can highlight where and how energy can be saved effectively.
Patients in hospital expect to find competent physicians and modern medical equipment. Yet, those medical systems will not function without infrastructure. Energy supply is a critical component in patient care. It ensures that the lift works, the operating theatre is heated and continually ventilated and the electronic equipment has a failsafe energy supply. Energy supply requirements are constantly changing, for instance when a hospital is renovated or enlarged or if it starts specializing in specific medical applications. Particularly in older buildings, the power supply equipment may no longer optimally meet current requirements. The upshot is high costs that could be reduced through more efficient energy concepts.

Anyone looking to reduce costs must first acquaint themselves with the structures and know what are the factors that influence energy consumption. In the past, very few people collected this kind of data. Now a research project led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT will provide the information needed to optimize energy consumption. 'What you need first of all are comprehensive load measurements in all the relevant areas that consume energy,' explains project manager Carsten Beier, 'because these measurements show whether a piece of equipment is being run optimally or whether there is a potential for cost reduction'.

The energy requirements can be assessed by conducting an audit. The next stage involves optimizing operating parameters or improving the utilization of capacity. All this directly benefits the 20 hospitals involved in the research project. The results find their way into other studies, too. In the project funded by the environmental foundation, the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, meaningful key energy figures are calculated that take specific characteristics into account. As Carsten Beier explains, 'We want to find out how energy consumption depends on the characteristics of the hospital. Then we can compare hospitals involved in different fields, say an eye hospital or a hospital dealing with surgical emergencies'.

Beier intends to set up an expert committee to discuss the project results with the hospital technical directors. Ultimately, the aim is to come up with best-practice solutions for energy-efficient hospitals.
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