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Reducing Energy in Operating Rooms

October 30, 2012 | 0 comments

Is it possible to save energy in a room dedicated to saving lives? Despite sensitive, expensive medical equipment, and operating room codes and standards, some of the nation’s operating rooms are doing what they can to reduce energy consumption.

The University of Chicago says the healthcare sector is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in the United States. And the operating room is one of the most energy-intensive spaces within a hospital.

Here are a few ways today’s modern operating rooms are reducing energy waste. Many of the methods being used aren’t that different from green practices in other facilities:

  • Installing occupancy sensors, like Kaiser Permanente does nationally. Although operating room lights are on most of the time, using sensors can cut back on lighting over-usage during the times when the operating room isn’t being used.
  • Unplugging equipment and machines after use, like Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. Medical staff doesn’t often think about turning off certain devices because they’re used so often. Although essential equipment needs to stay plugged in, operating rooms are making an effort to shut off unused equipment, such as suction devices, drills, and bipolar machines, when they’re not being used.
  • Using sleep mode, like Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, CA. Computers and monitors are vital to every operating room, and they’re often in use for viewing x-rays, etc. But when they’re not, these machines can be put to sleep to save energy. When the room is in use, sleep mode can be disabled to make sure computers and monitors stay on.
  • Incorporating more daylight, like Palomar Medical Center West in Escondido, CA. An architect at CO Architects says natural light and outdoor views in an operating room offers benefits for patients and staff. It is believed to increase staff alertness, decrease fatigue, and reduce stress. It may also provide a sense of calm for patients. Relying on natural light means less artificial light as well, which cuts down on the electric bill.
  • Implementing air-handling setbacks, like Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, WA. Most operating rooms have air-handling units that draw 100% of their air supply from outside air that needs to be either heated or cooled. Sensors or switches can reduce supply and exhaust fan speed when no one’s using the space.

Is your facility using the same tactics being used in today’s operating rooms? Do you think these actions will help cut down on hospitals’ contributions to carbon emissions?

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