Saskatoon hospital upgrades funded from utility savings

Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital has invested $13.6 million to provide critical facility upgrades that not only offer a healthier environment, but also yield savings of $1.4 million a year.
Photos courtesy Saskatoon Health Region and Johnson Controls

By Hassaan Khan, P.Eng.

The Royal University Hospital (RUH) provides acute-care services for the Saskatoon area, serving as the main trauma centre for the region and housing many maternal and child neurosurgery and cardiovascular surgery services. Working with a building technology and energy service company (ESCO), the hospital has invested $13.6 million to provide critical facility upgrades expected to save $1.4 million annually, along with providing a healthier environment both inside the hospital and in the larger community.

The 148,645-m2 (1.6 million-sf) facility was constructed in 1955, with a 1978 addition. In 2014, the hospital entered an energy performance contract (EPC) with the ESCO, aimed at facility improvements paid for over time by energy, water, and operational savings. With the approval of the Ministry of Health, the Region borrowed the funds to pay for the project, and the annual cost savings will be used to make those loan payments. Support from the Government of Saskatchewan was integral to the completion of the project.

The ESCO completed improvements in lighting, water use, building envelope, steam pipes and traps, hot water pumps, speed drives, and ventilation systems by June 2016—about five months ahead of schedule.

Through measurement and verification, the initial savings are almost double the guaranteed amount. In just the first two reporting quarters, the total savings is $899,192, exceeding the savings target guarantee by 48.2 per cent or $433,304.

Detailed facility audit
A team of engineers, consultants, and contractors, assembled by the ESCO, used energy analysis and onsite survey information to compile a detailed list of measures that would improve the energy consumption of the facility and mitigate the risk of managing aging infrastructure. Working with hospital staff, they found examples of pumps that functioned all year long regardless of outside air temperatures, air-handling systems that ran even when no one was in the area, and exhaust fans that continuously operated even when equipment was not in use. Additionally, poor lighting made common areas look gloomy and dull.

Upgrades occurred in several areas.

The ESCO retrofitted lamps in high-traffic areas, including the main floor mall, to add brightness and reduce energy use.

The ESCO reviewed more than 16,000 fixtures. It retrofitted lamps and ballasts of older light fixtures, as keeping the existing fixtures with some adjustments offered the greatest savings opportunity with the least occupant impact. Additionally, incandescent or compact fluorescent lamps were replaced with long-life light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, meaning reduced service and labour costs, especially in hard-to-reach locations.

Low-flow and more-efficient toilet, faucet, shower, and urinal fixtures were installed to decrease water use by 60 per cent and reduce the amount of water to be heated, resulting in both fuel and water savings.

Building envelope
Weatherstripping or sealant was applied to doors and windows to help cut down on outside air infiltrating the building.

Pipe insulation
Insulated covers were installed on 325 portions of the steam distribution system to reduce wasted heat energy, making the system work less to meet the required temperature.

Building automation system
By connecting occupancy sensors, the hospital is reducing energy while certain areas of the campus are unoccupied overnight and on weekends. Digital controls were upgraded to provide operators with better information to control the environment, such as by adding schedules to the HVAC system.

For the project, the building technology and energy service company (ESCO) replaced two large-horsepower fans with a wall of 15 efficient fans that provide backup. Having just a pair of fans in the operating room caused shutdowns when one was not working.

All fans in the wards, general, and operating room systems were at the end of their life cycle, costing facilities management constant dollars to repair. The new fan systems provide redundancy capabilities that greatly enhance facility operations. For instance, instead of having just two fans in the operating room area causing shutdowns if one was not working, a wall of 15 more-efficient fans now provides backup.

Steam traps
Several steam traps were replaced in an effort to reduce losses and keep the system working efficiently to meet the required temperature. This lowered fuel consumption.

Minimizing impact
Once all the improvements were installed, the ESCO worked to optimize and attain even more savings by looking at equipment schedules, fresh air intake, equipment sequencing, and other measures—while always keeping patients and staff in mind.

“A large part of this project was the scheduling of time for when the contractors could perform their work,” said Brian Berzolla, Saskatoon Health Region’s director of facilities. “The Region’s capital planning and project management staff was instrumental in making sure the right people were in the right place at the right time so that patients and staff were minimally impacted.”

“The EPC allowed us to find dollars to do a whole pile of improvements and be paid back by the money we would have spent on utilities. We’re saving more money than was anticipated and making payments on the loan, but we have extra funds to go back into the hospital operations,” he explained.

Environmental benefits include these annual equivalents:

  • saving about 29 Olympic-size swimming pools of water;
  • turning off 10,509 60-watt light bulbs;
  • reducing energy use of 933 homes; and
  • offsetting carbon emissions from 12,016 barrels of oil.

“We recognize that healthcare is a huge negative contributor to the environment, and that’s contrary to the ‘first do no harm’ philosophy of medical professionals. We have a duty to mitigate the environmental impact on public health, and we’re doing that by reducing energy and water waste,” said Nilesh Kavia, vice-president of finance and corporate services with Saskatoon Health Region. “Best of all, the project was done at no incremental cost to the taxpayer.”

Hassaan Khan, P.Eng., is the area general manager for the Johnson Controls’ performance infrastructure business in Canada and is responsible for over $200 million in active performance guarantees. Since 1999, he has served in various general management, sales management, and sales roles at Johnson Controls. A board member for the Energy Services Association of Canada (ESAC), Khan holds an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business and a degree in civil (environmental) engineering from the University of Toronto. He can be reached via e-mail at

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