I have been working with hospitals to save energy long before there was anything like a Green Buildings Movement, or Healthier Hospitals Initiative, or anything else. People in hospitals, in some ways, are among the original Green Building pioneers, as they have always worked to reduce their energy consumption in order to save on their costs.
When I started my career as a young electrical engineer, I used to think that the solution to the problem was to give clients better technology. If only I could replace those lights, or install better control systems, or even the holy grail of solar panels!
After a while, I discovered that technology was a necessary, but insufficient answer to the energy reduction problem. Inevitably, we were frustrated in implementing projects because there was insufficient funding available. I spent a lot of years working on this problem, figuring out how to link operations and capital decisions, how to bring sophisticated financial analysis to proposed projects, winning millions of dollars in utility rebates, developing relationships with financial partners who could fund projects for hospitals, even going so far as to develop some small projects here and there.
And so, after a while, I decided that money, too, was a necessary, but insufficient answer to the energy reduction problem. The bad news is that there are very many hospitals who are designed with the best technologies, and that do not perform the way they are able to. As designers, we find over and over that the way people operate their systems is probably the single biggest factor influencing the outcomes of energy reduction programs.
But the good news is that we very often have it within our power to do better. All it takes is a little knowledge, a little ingenuity, and a little bit of will. The people operating hospitals are some of the finest, most talented people I have ever met. You are capable of doing great things.
I have recently switched my focus; I am no longer worrying too much about engineering better technologies (my staff does that); I am no longer worrying too much about financing projects (my staff does that, too). Now, I am starting to think about how to engineer the motivations, and the processes that will help people to get everything out of their systems they are capable of.
And so, to the enrolled hospitals of the HHI Challenges, I say, do not be constrained by technology and money; use them, for sure, but look, too, at how you can get the very most out of the systems you have. I guarantee that you can do it, and, make no mistake, as the arctic ice melts, the world needs you to.