Nicolas Lee

Nicolas Lee

General Foreman, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois

Working Towards Efficiency is a Constant Process

BOC graduate Nicolas Lee is a general foreman at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, a campus of over twenty-two varied-use buildings, with three new ones under construction, encompassing an area of about 5.2 million square feet. Modernization projects are ongoing at this type of facility which is also a teaching and research hospital. Projects are huge in scope. Architects and engineers must plan the construction and relocation so that occupant needs are not disrupted. “Healthcare moves at the speed of light and constant changes are required to meet the needs of patient care and education,” says Lee.

One of the goals of the hospital’s modernization is energy self-sufficiency in order to have greater control over energy costs and reduce the dependency on outside sources. The hospital’s facilities and transformation people developed a plan to construct a central energy plant to deliver steam and A/C chilled water to the campus. Construction of the central energy plant required the installation of boilers, chillers, cooling towers, VFD controls, and a variety of equipment. It also necessitated designing plans for both new and existing systems, as well as planning for their subsequent maintenance. “Planned maintenance is also a part of the plant operation,” says Lee, “PM ensured the proper operation of the equipment and systems, all of which saves energy and reduces costs.”

Plans to relocate the various departments and services were developed first as a prelude to any construction or renovation. Flexibility is a key concept here so that the plans are able to accommodate schedule changes that might possibly occur in areas of reconstruction, with new construction having fewer such constraints. The systems are being phased in gradually, one location at a time.”“Once more of the plant is operated, it is expected that the cost of the steam production on campus will meet or be less than the cost of purchasing steam,” says Lee.

Condensate returns to surge tanks which will add treated water if needed, then deaerators will remove air. Chillers and boilers are sized and operated to accommodate demand. Plate heat exchangers recover energy from the systems, and roof-top rainwater storage provides the chiller system cooling towers with make-up water (reducing the use of potable water). Any chemical additives needed to protect against corrosion and sediment are OSHA approved and biodegradable. Where possible, areas were designed to provide better access for maintenance, promoting safety, easier monitoring and repair, and which can also result in cost savings on insurance premiums due to the safer conditions.

Lee credits MEEA BOC training with helping in the green process. Building engineers, design engineers and architects are thinking green. “The BOC program I took through MEEA provides information on green design. Forty years ago, ecology was a word that inspired good thoughts, but limited action. I think ecology became green (as in money) when fuel and utility costs increased. Costs affect the design of roofing materials, building siding, insulation, lighting systems, plumbing systems, motor controllers, motors, pumps, fans, chillers and boilers. Duct coils or plate exchangers are now used for recovery of heat or cooling. Rain water, coil condensate, boiler blow down water or treated system blow down water are now valuable commodities. BOC training expands one’s thoughts to consider not just the present, but the future. The costs are both financial and ecological. It comes down to logistics: If the planet and atmosphere are not the concern, there is always the thought that there is no law against saving money. The BOC program teaches a building engineer how to look at a job from more than one viewpoint, not just how to repair or construct a project, but to consider the overall effects as well as the costs.”