Hospitals are complicated buildings. They’re big. They come with a lot of special services. They run 24/7, 365 days a year.

And traditionally, they have been energy and carbon intensive. According to research from Yale University, if the U.S. health care system were a country, it would rank 13th in the world for greenhouse gas emissions. They are also used more intensely, and for a longer period of time, than the average building.

Now, driven by climate-change considerations, regulatory mandates, financial incentives (and penalties) and ESG considerations, many hospital owners and operators are seeking ways to reduce their energy consumption and their GHGs. The solutions to those mandates are within reach and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change at the same time.

PCL has built some of the most modern, energy-efficient hospitals in the world. We understand their design, commissioning and operational states. By bringing this knowledge and experience to every new project, our teams reduce risk, optimize efficiency and reliability, and offer long-term cost reduction.

Our experts work with building owners to develop cost-effective energy- and carbon-reduction strategies. At the same time, we understand the critical nature of the health care facilities and the needs of both its users and its operators.

  1. PCL’s in-house experts facilitate a collaborative process with key stakeholders (owners, users, the design team, estimating, partner subtrades, key vendors, building operators, energy modelers and other sustainability and building performance experts).
  2. We provide feedback to our clients on the functional, operational and financial consequences of energy and carbon targets. We want to make sure we’re not just meeting the targets but meeting them in a way that optimizes value for our clients.
  3. We leverage our experience with energy optimization, high efficiency solutions and new technologies.
  4. We take a hands-on role in commissioning buildings to verify they are performing as intended before handing them over to the operators and users.
  5. We use energy- and building-analytics software to monitor performance after handover, and to understand where additional improvements can be made, both in that facility and on future projects.

When it opened in 2015, Humber River Hospital was the most energy-efficient acute care hospital in North America. Through a state-of-the-art heating, cooling and ventilation system, PCL, as part of the Plenary Healthcare Partnerships team, achieved an energy efficiency model that is a 47% improvement on the Energy Star target for hospitals, even while providing 100% fresh air throughout the building.

PCL’s prefabrication construction techniques furthered the hospital’s lean and green philosophy. PCL used modular manufacturing techniques to build 14 data rooms and 360 patient washrooms off-site, then shipped to site when it was time for installation. This sustainable off-site construction generated less waste, enhanced quality and reduced the project's carbon footprint.

PCL and the Plenary Healthcare Partnerships team pushed the boundaries of innovation with one of the world’s largest dynamic glass installations, which changes its transparency in response to the environment and the user’s needs. It becomes opaque to block out sun or transparent to let it in.

Soon after it opened, the project was recognized with an Excellence in Green Building award from the Canada Green Building Council. It is LEED Gold certified and even now remains one of the world’s top-performing acute care hospitals. It recently placed second in Greening Health Care’s international benchmarking of more than 280 large, urban acute care hospitals from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Humber River Hospital’s 2020 energy (electrical and thermal), water and greenhouse gas emissions are 29%, 34% and 42% below industry good practice standards when compared with Greening Health Care’s targets for urban acute care hospitals,

But building sustainable hospitals is not about winning awards. It’s about building resilient spaces that are healthier and more welcoming for patients, staff and visitors. It’s about building one of a community’s most important buildings in a way that will deliver community wellness and pride as well as cost savings. It’s about creating an energy efficient, healthy indoor environment, and greater occupant comfort. It’s about innovating to bring value to the community and to reduce operating costs.

To meet these goals, PCL works to understand a client’s needs and aspirations, and then gets the right people together to facilitate a process that will achieve them. “We look at projects from 360 degrees and advise the owner on the right course of action,” says Chris Krueger, a construction risk manager for building systems with PCL. “We'll advise the best way to meet targets or recommend how to adjust them to improve value while still meeting the intent.”

PCL and its partners continue to innovate, customize and propel the development of sustainable medical facilities. As part of the Corner Brook Health Partnership team in Newfoundland & Labrador, PCL is building a new acute care hospital in Corner Brook. Considering available energy options, relative costs and other factors, the client decided to install a geothermal heating and cooling system. This green power source is projected to reduce greenhouse gas production by 64% when compared with other possible energy sources and showcases the option of geothermal for future projects.

For the LEED Gold-certified expansion of the Milton District Hospital, the design-build team performed a detailed analysis of the operational schedules of hospital spaces and HVAC control zone requirements. The team added granular controls for areas where the energy savings outweighed the capital costs, giving operators the ability to shut down HVAC systems when spaces are unoccupied.

The project achieved total completion just seven months after substantial completion and did so while not impacting ongoing hospital operations.

As a final service to ensure that buildings are performing as they are meant to, PCL verifies a health care facility’s systems before handing operations off to the client. “Our building systems group ensures these facilities perform as they’re intended to and are only using the energy we’re expecting them to,” Krueger says.

PCL is now at work on several hospitals that will incorporate our previous experiences and lessons learned, along with a new generation of more stringent energy and carbon-reduction goals.