St. Mark's Medical Center leads hospitals in EPA’s 2011 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition

The ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings has just passed its midpoint, and the competition is fierce to become the “biggest loser.” In this case, the belt being tightened is energy consumption, with 245 buildings in 33 states (plus DC), representing 12 different categories, competing to reduce consumption the most. St. Mark's Medical Center in La Grange, Texas leads the ten-competitor hospitals group with 10 percent overall energy savings since the beginning of the competition.

St. Mark’s Medical Center is a modern facility built in 2005. At the start of the competition, the building’s EUI rating (the energy consumed by a building relative to its size) was 609.2. At midpoint, the EUI is down to549.2, with an impressive overall energy cost savings of $87, 608.

One might assume that to achieve this level of energy savings would require a large capital expenditure for new or modified HVAC systems,solar panels on the roof, window film, state-of-the-art hot water systems, or other costly measures. In fact, none of that is true. These savings were achieved with no capital expense other than repairing a few minor components already in use.

So where did the savings come from? They came from changing the way existing systems were configured. No, St. Mark's did not set the thermostats on “frostbite” in the winter and “swelter” in the summer. What it did was simply figure out how to be more efficient, which required a thorough analysis by engineers specially trained and highly experienced in doing just that – reducing energy costs for institutional buildings without capital expense. Existing systems were fine-tuned for optimal efficiency.

St. Mark's Medical Center engaged Ridgecrest Energy Advisors to assist. Because of Ridgecrest’s extensive experience in energy use analysis and optimization in institutional buildings, including hospitals, office buildings, educational buildings, and hotels, the firm was able to identify ten energyconservation measures (ECMs) for St. Mark's and implement its recommendations so that the savings warranted inclusion of St. Mark's in this competition.

According to Ben Whitsett, Sr. Vice President of Ridgecrest, “St. Mark's is just one example of how energy consumption can be reduced in large commercial buildings without the high-dollar capital improvements that everyone seems to assume are necessary.”

Mel Burgess is the Director of Maintenance and Facilities at St. Mark's. About Ridgecrest’s lead engineer on this project, Jim McAdam, Mr. Burgess commented, "Jim’s extensive knowledge of building dynamics has led us to a substantial savings in both electricity and gas consumption. Jim and our controls contractor have vastly improved the graphic controls of our building automation. That makes my job easier. Jim has also projected gas consumption for the year, saving St. Mark's money because we are not over buying blocks of gas and selling them back at a loss. I look forward to continuing efforts to lessen our cost, but more importantly to lessen our impact on the environment."

Ridgecrest is working with other hospitals as well, helping them achieve a green footprint, including Harris Methodist and Kindred Hospitals in Fort Worth, Texas, and Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, Texas, all of which are expected to achieve significant energy reductions as a result of Ridgecrest’s efforts.

Together, the 245 participants in the ENERGY STAR Competition have saved more than $3.7 million on utility bills and 170 million kBtu of energy in the first six months of the competition.

The ENERGY STAR program is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Energy Star began in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Star label was extended to commercial buildings in 1995, and the labeling program for these buildings began in 1999.

The value of reducing energy consumption goes far beyond the obvious environmental implications. For example a 1999 report on green office buildings published by UC Berkeley’s Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics concludes: “A ten percent decrease in energy consumption leads to an increase in value of about one percent, over and above the rent and value premium for a labeled building. However, the intangible effects of the label itself –beliefs about worker productivity or improved corporate image, for example – also seem to play a role in determining the value of green buildings in the marketplace. Not all of a building’s energy use measured by the Energy Star label is directly linked to the ultimate energy bill, yet even reducing that energy consumption yields positive effects on a building’s value.”

For more information about the 2011 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition, please visit: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=buildingcontest.index.

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