NYU Langone’s Green Team: Darren Rubbo, associate director of engineering; Michael Giannotti, control shop foreman; Patrick Dunne, refrigeration engineering foreman; and John Bartlik, associate director of energy services. (Photo by Ben Ferrari)

It's Not Easy Being Green

To Conserve Energy, NYU Langone Taps into the Power of Its People

Mention energy efficiency to Paul Schwabacher, senior vice president for facilities management, and his eyes light up.  "In this area, our environmental and financial interests are directly aligned,"  he says.  "NYU Langone Medical Center spends $30 million annually on electricity and steam and generates nearly 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide. By becoming more energy efficient, we have a huge opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money."

Hospitals rank among America's biggest energy consumers, but lately, the healthcare industry has joined others in making efficiency a high priority. On several fronts, NYU Langone is leading the way. An early member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Health Partnership, which compiles hospitals' energy profiles in a national database, it was the first medical center in the city to join Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC, whose participants pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions 30 percent by 2018.

The task of meeting this goal falls largely to John Bartlik, associate director of energy services, whose job is to analyze the Medical Center's energy use and identify potential savings. Bartlik knows the system well, thanks to a previous stint here in the 1990s. Sitting in his office, he points to an onscreen diagram of an air-handling unit — one of 180 that work day and night to keep the Medical Center's buildings supplied with fresh, temperature-controlled air.  "With the aid of 20,000 sensors throughout the Medical Center, this display tells us how much air is flowing through each unit, as well as the air pressure, temperature, and humidity at various points,"  he explains.  "We can also check temperature and air pressure in specific rooms."

Bartlik's first project was to maximize this system's efficiency by repairing components, ensuring that measuring devices were calibrated correctly, and optimizing the system's control logic.  "The design of our traditional heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems,"  he explains,  "requires us to cool all of our ventilation air in one of our three big chiller plants to meet the needs of the warmest spaces, then reheat the rest of the air, where needed, to maintain comfort levels. Minimizing this wasteful reheating is a key to saving energy."  After a year of tweaking, Bartlik and his team reduced annual energy expenditures by $2.5 million. Among other recent conservation measures, a more efficient chiller plant was installed in Tisch Hospital, and the Medical Center's 14 miles of air-conditioning pipes were reconfigured to cool more efficiently.

Getting a good return on investment is an important factor when planning efficiency projects, particularly the cogeneration plant NYU Langone hopes to build adjacent to the FDR Drive. This proposed plant would employ a natural gas–fired turbine to fulfill two-thirds of the Medical Center's daily electricity needs, while heat from the process would be used to generate needed steam. Since most electric power plants don't harness the heat they produce, about two-thirds of the energy burned for fuel goes up the smokestack as heated air. Cogeneration is about 83 percent efficient because it captures this other­wise lost heat. This reduced waste — and the resulting savings on steam, which is currently purchased — would cut energy expenditures by an estimated $10 million annually. Various cogeneration options are under study.

Still, as Richard Cohen, vice president for facilities management, notes, some of the most important energy investments involve people rather than equipment.  "One of the keys to improving efficiency is consistency and persistence,"  he says.  "For that, you need committed individuals. For example, John Bartlik's experience, superb engineering skills, and ability to communicate made him the perfect candidate to run our energy and sustainability portfolio. The dedication that he and others bring to the task is what will make our energy program a success."

 

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