UPMC effort includes adding LED lighting

UPMC sees going green as part of getting healthier.

“A cleaner environment is a healthier environment, and a healthier environment leads to healthier lives,” said Drew Chidester, senior director of energy initiatives at the Pittsburgh health system.

That’s why said health system is participating in the Oakland expansion of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, an initiative started Downtown in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance. It aims to reduce energy use, water use and transportation emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Fifteen of UPMC’s Oakland locations will participating in the initiative, according to UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko. The hospital network owns more than 4.1 million square feet of property in Oakland, including UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Montefiore, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. Those facilities employ more than 10,000 people.

“UPMC is a very unique property owner,” Sean Luther, senior director for the 2030 District, said.

The Pittsburgh 2030 District’s expansion might be new to Oakland, but energy efficiency programs are not new to UPMC.

UPMC started its own programs in 2010 to cut its energy consumption and vehicle engine exhaust. It spends $75 million on energy per year and invests $5 million per year to fund projects intended to reduce energy usage and operating costs, Mr. Chidester said in an e-mail. UPMC said it has cut energy consumption by 3.3 percent since 2010.

One perk of the 2030 District’s program is that it allows for additions to previously existing goals, Mr. Luther said. UPMC’s original goal was to reduce its energy use by 20 percent by 2020. 

“That allows us, especially in the case of UPMC, to capture progress already made in their facility,” Mr. Luther said. “Some people are already pretty close to those goals. Some aren’t even down that road. We’ll use the expertise to really push forth those practices. The program is pretty much based on best practices by peer property owners.”

Thus far, most of UMPC’s projects have been at its outlying facilities such as UPMC Bedford Memorial in Everett and UPMC Horizon, Greenville.The expansion will give the hospital network a reason to localize its efforts.

“We have not done a lot of work at Presby,” Mr. Chidester said, referring to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland. “You’re going to see a little more concentration.”

UPMC has installed geothermals at UPMC Northwest, Seneca, and has done retro commissioning at UPMC St. Margaret in Aspinwall. Retro commissioning improves how a building and its equipment, such as heating and cooling systems, work together. 

One upgrade to St. Margaret’s was the instillation of variable frequency drives, which adjust the speed of a fan and the rate of air or heat flow in a building, thus lowering its energy usage.

LED lighting has also been installed in some of UPMC’s facilities. LED lighting reduces energy consumption and can provide a better environment for patients and staff who might be bothered by bright, non-adjustable florescent lighting.

“If we wanted to dim the lights at night when our patients are sleeping, it’s very cumbersome for us to do because of the switching that’s required,” Mr. Chidester said of florescent lighting. “But with the instillation of LED lights, we can also install a new control system that will allow us to dim the lights down to 10 percent.”

UPMC also has retrofitted some of its buses to run on natural gas instead of diesel. Natural gas emits lower air emissions than diesel fuel.

“We also consider that part of greening; it’s important to us,” Mr. Chidester said.

Upgrades are paid for through UPMC’s budget and funds available through Act 129, which required major electric distribution companies to decrease energy consumption by certain percents. UPMC works with Duquesne Light to receive such funds, Mr. Chidester said.

Dave Defide, the manager of customer programs at Duquesne Light declined to discuss specifics in regards to its business with UPMC but said Duquesne Light designs its efficiency programs around its customers. The programs encourage customers to purchase or implement policies to help them become more efficient, which therefore helps Duquesne Light meet its target goals.

“It can help them potentially lower their bills and that helps benefit the environment through lower fuel and lower emissions,” he said.

Madasyn Czebiniak: mczebiniak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak

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