David Bird

David Bird

Director of Facilities Engineering, A. O. Fox Hospital, Oneonta, New York

Creative Solutions for Funding Much Needed Projects

A. O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta, New York had a real problem. A sudden roof leak at its 130-bed nursing home had to be addressed and as quickly as possible. Tight budgets in a tough economy necessitated some creative thinking and Director of Facilities Engineering David Bird, a BOC grad, decided to see what types of funding or loans might be available for the project. In his research, he came upon the Hospital Financial Services Corporation (HFSC) Smart Hospital Efficiency program. Eligible projects could receive up to 70% funding and the balance in low interest loans from HFSC. Needless to say, Bird applied.

Due to his efforts, the hospital received an HFSC grant of $822,850 toward the project, the balance of funding to be supplied with a low interest loan. The award led him to think about possible funding for energy conservation projects. Bird applied for more funding.

Facilities departments at hospitals face particular challenges in that most of the budget priorities are geared toward patient care, physician recruitment and Medicare reimbursement. Because hospitals are a major energy consumer, with some of the facilities running high-consumption equipment 24/7, energy management is often overlooked as a means to rein in costs.

Bird started thinking about one of the “low hanging fruit” targets of energy conservation: lighting retrofits. This was the subject of his second successful grant application. For this, he ended up with 50% of the project funded and the balance, again, at a low interest loan that would dovetail with the energy savings provided by the new lighting.

“My goal,” Bird notes, “was to reduce energy cost, waste and the labor and maintenance costs for re-lamping.” Fox’s energy consumption history was daunting 5.8 million kilowatt hours (kWh) yearly, equivalent to $600,000 in energy costs. Add to that $60,000/year for bulbs and ballasts, and $20,000/year in estimated maintenance and labor. Bird anticipates that the project will reduce energy consumption by an estimated 10%. Return on investment will be as soon as 12-16 months. The new LED bulbs are projected to last 50,000 hours (about 20 times the lifespan of an incandescent bulb), greatly reducing labor costs for change-outs. Added to the savings is the fact that they contain no harmful chemicals.

Bird has planned the project to unfold in three phases. Phase one will be the installation of 1000 4’ LED lights in hallways, patient rooms and in the nursing home. Since LEDs give out more light for the same area, this will reduce the number of bulbs needed by half. Phase two will be the replacement of specialty lights in such areas as examination rooms and the emergency department. This phase will also involve re-lamping the 140,000 square-foot Fox Center, the major part of which is an open-area lobby area surrounded by offices and services. The third and final phase will address exterior lighting at the healthcare compound.

When the grant was awarded to Fox, Stephen Weidner, Compliance Officer of HFSC, pointed out the dual advantages of David Bird’s proposal, noting that Fox has “exhibited a commitment to implement strategies that not only reduce energy expenditures, but also take into consideration the impact on the environment.”

Due to Fox’s efforts, A. O. Fox was awarded the National Energy Conservation Award from the Smart Hospital Efficiency Program, presented by HFSC.

“Any facilities person will tell you how crucial their often unrecognized and behind-the-scenes work is in running such a complicated operation,” says Bird. A twenty-year veteran of healthcare administration and a Certified Healthcare Facility Manager, David Bird will also tell you that it’s all in a day’s work.