One New York hospital's green-tech prescription

Even though budget considerations required an ambitious energy savings performance contract to be shelved, the hospital has attacked smaller sustainability projects with surgical precision.

When New York Hospital Queens opened a 7-story addition in 2010, the project afforded facility managers with the perfect opportunity to embrace green technologies and management approaches that have helped the facility methodically reduce energy consumption and boost its recycling rates over the past two years.

Kevin Mannle, the hospital's director of engineering, said when you're trying to introduce green thinking to an organization, it is important to sweat the small stuff as well as the big stuff.

That is because sometimes smaller projects will help yield the sorts of operational savings necessary for funding upgrades to support bigger-impact initiatives. "When you start to get into true energy savings, usually there is some investment upfront," he said.

In the case of New York Hospital Queens, the healthcare organization had hoped to fund a massive energy savings project through a long-term energy savings performance contract. Even though those ambitious plans were tabled, the information that Mannle gathered along the way helped him target individual initiatives that he knew would help pay off, such as lighting technology upgrades, updated climate control systems and a biodigester that has helped cut food waste.

So far, the hospital's single most impactful investment was the addition of dual-fuel equipment that provides it with backup options should one fuel source become prohibitively expensive or in short supply, Mannle said.

Other simple measures that have seriously impacted energy efficiency: variable frequency drives, new motors and automation technology that has helped the hospital become more methodical about setting back or adjusting temperatures in unused portions of the facility. Mannle's only frustration is that he can't submeter the systems to get even more granular about the savings.

The hospital has also taken an innovative approach to the way food waste is handled, which has helped improve its recycling rate, which currently stands at about 15 percent. A biodigester in the kitchen is now used to break down food content from discarded trays, which is flushed down a special drain, eliminating many pounds of waste that were previously sent to landfill, Mannle said.

Although New York Hospital Queens hasn't set a specific recycling goal (it just wants to push the percentage higher every year), it is part of the PlaNYC initiative, which calls for it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent before the year 2018. As of 2010, the hospital had achieved a 14 percent reduction against that goal.