Stamford Hospital aims to go ‘green’ with new building

STAMFORD — Stamford Hospital’s new building is designed to take only as many breaths as it needs.

As they prepared to observe Earth Day this past week, hospital officials said environmental awareness in their institution’s flagship 650,000-square-foot structure that opened last September is no gimmick. Hospital officials point to sustainability features as key to keeping costs down and creating a healthier and more welcoming experience for patients.

“It’s a smart business decision to save energy,” said Stanley Hunter, the project director for the hospital’s master plan program.

Energy efficient

Designing the hospital’s $450 million headquarters offered the opportunity to design a campus that would improve from top to bottom on the environmental efficiency of the old building.

Hospital officials expected to run a new building that would use 12 percent less in utilities than comparably sized hospitals — an efficiency target they said they are already exceeding.

“If you think about it from the very beginning, it’s not costing more,” Hunter said of the hospital’s energy-efficiency goals.

The hospital’s exterior reflects the focus on sustainability. Terracotta panels cover the lower part of the building. The terracotta is more effective than brick because it does not trap and transfer heat into the building, which results in less energy needed for cooling. With a similar aim, the new building’s roof is white, so it reflects rather than absorbs sunlight.

Using less energy also helps to create a more comfortable environment, hospital officials said. The new building’s control system turns down the lights on patient floors at night to create a quieter ambiance and use less wattage.

“With that type of control system, you automatically have both the advantage of a better patient experience plus energy savings,” Hunter said. “It’s a win-win.”

An energy hub

A walk through a tunnel lined with utility tubes and wiring leads to the Central Utility Plant, the heart of the hospital’s energy-conserving operations.

Opened in January 2014, the approximately 35,000-square-foot plant was designed to serve the new building — and do so more efficiently than its predecessor hub. Every boiler and chiller is monitored digitally to make sure it is only expending as much as energy as needed.

The plant runs on natural gas.

“We used to burn No. 6 oil,” said plant operations supervisor Terence Brady. “But it’s not cost-effective and not the green synergy we’re trying to promote.”

Hospital officials said they maintain a close watch over the plant’s systems, which work at prolific rates. One boiler produces almost 13,000 pounds of steam per hour.

“We’re constantly having (the boilers) tested for their efficiency,” said Michael Smeriglio, the hospital’s executive director of facilities management. “We have an optimization package, which controls the motor — it’s reading the temperature and flame output and reading the amount of gas going in. We’re not using more than what we need.”

The same conservation principles apply in the 40,000-square-foot mechanical floor on the hospital’s third level. Air handlers use “variable speed technology” motors that spin as fast as needed. If less air is required, the motors slow down to save energy.

Data on the new building’s total utility output and costs were not immediately available.

Looking ahead

The hospital’s green strategy has positioned the institution to gain a certified level of recognition in the U.S. Green Building Council’s and Green Business Certification Inc.’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, one of the most prestigious endorsements of energy efficiency.

About 980 healthcare projects are certified nationwide, while 1,835 are awaiting certification.

Connecticut has 270 LEED-certified commercial properties and another 364 waiting for certification. Across the U.S., about 64,500 projects are certified or seeking certification.

“One of the main tenets of LEED is human health and the belief that buildings can have an impact on our health,” said Theresa Backus, a technical specialist in the building council’s LEED department. “We believe buildings that are designed to be more sustainable are healthier buildings.”

Stamford Hospital officials envision implementing other innovations when they become financially feasible. The Central Utility Plant could accommodate a “co-generation” system, which would recycle utility emissions. Heat byproducts, for instance, could be reused to warm up boiler water.

“You’d using less energy to warm up the water in boilers,” Smeriglio said. “We’d want to use every waste product off the co-generation.”; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott