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This Michigan hospital upgrade paid for itself in just 3 years

For some time, healthcare costs have been exploding at rates faster than virtually everything else. That deprives people of the care they need and strains public health resources.

While much of the cost increase is out of a city’s control, you can do something about one big expense: energy use. As you’ll read below, hospitals waste a lot of it.

Council Lead Partner Dow worked with MidMichigan Health in Midland, MI, turning what was a pretty typical hospital into a shining example of energy efficiency. The result was a project forecast to pay for itself in 3 years and generate $1.4 million in energy savings — savings that can be put to a much higher use. — Kevin Ebi


By Gary Parsons, Fellow at the Dow Chemical Company

Software, sensors and mobile devices may be top of mind when discussing the transformation of healthcare at the IT level, but the core of smart healthcare is even smarter infrastructure.

According to the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance, healthcare facilities are the third most energy-intensive facility type in the United States, spending more than $11.5 billion on energy each year. Hospitals alone consume 2.5 times the energy of the average commercial building. Clearly, smart healthcare will require a concerted effort to improve the building’s energy profile — without sacrificing patient safety, efficacy and comfort.  

Dow Buildings Solutions (DBS), a business unit of the Dow Chemical Company, incorporates the use of research and development to deliver a wide variety of innovative sustainable building and construction materials to enable energy efficient building design. Backed by 50 years of building science expertise, DBS’ products work to maximize air, moisture and energy control within the building envelope to provide long-term durable building performance, while integrating the latest in building technologies.

Dow recently worked with MidMichigan Health, a non-profit hospital in Midland, Michigan, to transform the medical center into an energy-efficient facility. Tasked with maintaining the same look and feel of the existing space, Dow recommended its THERMAX™ Wall System which combines an insulating air barrier, all-weather flashing and continuous insulation to provide the highest performance in commercial wall systems.

Not only did the state-of-the-art wall system help maximize energy efficiency allowing for the hospital to save on long-term costs, but the building was certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, improving energy efficiency by 38 percent above LEED qualifications.

But to really understand the significance of a sustainable building envelope, Dow put their building solutions to the test with the construction of a new medical office in Saginaw, Michigan. Built in the same vicinity as the site’s older medical office allowed for a side-by-side comparison of a high-performing continuously insulated building versus an older, conventional structure.

After applying the same THERMAX™ Wall System as the MidMichigan Health medical center, along with STYROFOAM™ Brand Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) — CM Series Insulation for increased air tightness and added insulation, the team found considerable differences between the energy efficiency of the two buildings.

After studying energy usage over the same year time period, the results were an annual savings of $36,557 per year allowing for the building owner to save $1,425,723 in energy savings over the course of the building’s estimated lifetime. Based on the annual savings, the payback of the high performance insulation system premium is a short 3.1 years.

Through these examples, DBS has found that small upgrades like a simple change in wall systems can drastically improve energy efficiency and lower hefty energy costs. A well-insulated and air-sealed building has the added benefit of a more stable interior environment, which makes it easier for the building systems’ automation to optimize performance of the mechanical systems, thereby minimizing operational costs.

Healthcare facility managers can magnify these benefits by pairing the intelligent application of materials science with building energy management systems. This combination of materials and IT represents the future of smart healthcare.

Gary Parsons is a Fellow in Dow Building Solutions Research and Development. Since 2006, Parsons has been the technical leader of the Dow Building Solutions "Building Science and Application Development" team which specializes in understanding and developing building enclosure energy management products and systems for residential, commercial and retrofit construction applications.

Smart Cities Readiness Guide …
Traditional approaches to healthcare are being challenged. As urban populations swell and people live longer, demand for health services will increase, requiring new efficiencies in service delivery. The Health and Human Services chapter of the Smart Cities Readiness Guide helps you design cost-effective strategies to keep your citizens healthy.