How does your hospital compare on energy, water and sewer costs? Free benchmarking survey can tell FMs

Hospitals’ energy costs per square foot (red boxes) rose slightly in 2017. Energy use intensity (Btu/sf/year, blue bars) has drifted downward over time but also ticked up in 2017. Chart ©2019 Grumman/Butkus Associates.

Grumman/Butkus Associates, a firm of energy efficiency consultants and sustainable design engineers, recently released the results of its 2018 Hospital Energy and Water Benchmarking Survey, focusing on healthcare facilities’ resource usage trends and costs for calendar year 2017.

Since G/BA initiated the survey more than 20 years ago, hospitals’ overall fossil fuel use has trended downward, but electricity use isn’t declining as much. The average combined Btu/ft2 (electricity plus gas/steam) for participating facilities was 241,733 in CY2017, up slightly from CY2016 (236,910 Btu/ft2).

Square-foot prices for gas/steam rose modestly ($0.75 in 2017, compared with $0.71 in 2016), but square-foot prices for electricity climbed more sharply ($2.41 in 2017, vs. $2.25 in 2016). The overall result is that hospitals’ total ft2 costs for energy (gas/steam plus electric) increased: $3.16 for 2017, compared with $3.02 for 2016.

Hospitals’ average carbon footprint has remained fairly steady at 50 to 60 pounds of CO2 equivalent per ft2 per year since G/BA began calculating carbon data in 1999. “If we are going to address the very daunting issue of climate change, the healthcare industry must make greater strides in reducing its carbon footprint,” says Dan Doyle, G/BA Chairman. “As the trend data shows, not enough progress is being made so far.”

Participating facilities displayed a broad range of usage patterns. For instance, some participants are using more than 250,000 BTU/ft2 in fossil fuel annually, compared with a general mid-range of facilities (about 135,000 BTU/ft2/year) and those that used least (75,000 BTU/ft2/year or less). Similarly, a few hospitals consume more than 45 kWh/ft2/year in electricity, compared with a mid-range of about 30 kWh/ft2/year. A few squeaked by with less than 18 kWh/ft2/year.

“Facilities that have high unit costs for energy should view this as an opportunity,” says Doyle. “For example, an energy conservation project that would have a five-year payback at an ‘average’ facility may have a payback of just 2.5 or 3 years at a facility with higher unit costs for energy.”

Hospital water/sewer use is also gradually declining, currently averaging about 48 gallons per square foot per year (compared with more than 60 gallons/ ft2/year a decade ago). Costs for water/sewer are generally rising, however, now averaging $0.39/ft2. As recently as 2017, hospitals were paying about $0.24/ft2. “G/BA expects the trend of rising water and sewer costs to continue,” says Doyle. “Price hikes not only reflect increasing costs to extract and treat the water, but also the fact that cash-strapped governmental entities may view water as a revenue source.”

Since 1995, the G/BA survey has provided a free annual benchmarking resource. Hospitals are invited to participate by submitting responses to a short list of questions. Information for this edition was provided by 121 hospitals located in Illinois (49), Wisconsin (25), Texas (20), Indiana (16), Louisiana (5), and several other states.

Full results and analysis, as well as information about participating in the 2019 survey (2018 data), are available at the firm’s website: grummanbutkus.com/HES.

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