April 22, 2021 – With many hospitals and more than 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices from the Keys through Palm Beach County, Baptist Health South Florida’s energy needs are significant. That’s why the organization is embarking on a multimillion-dollar project to better manage its energy usage and implement changes that will enhance its environmental programs throughout South Florida.
Baptist Health has long been environmentally aware, building facilities that take advantage of natural light, using green building supplies and incorporating recycling programs into everyday business. It also was among the first in the region to make its campuses tobacco-free. And as Earth Day 2021 approached, it became time to take the next steps to help the planet.
“I came into an organization that already had a strong foundation and desire to protect the environment,” says Scott Harding, Baptist Health’s new corporate vice president of facilities and construction. “But most of our buildings are in use 24/7. It’s our goal to reduce our carbon footprint further, and to have smarter, stronger and more efficient buildings.”
Mr. Harding, with more than 40 years of experience in healthcare construction and support from the Midwest to Florida, joined the organization in October. He has a keen understanding of the latest environmentally friendly measures. Already underway at Baptist Health is the digitizing and centralization of an energy management system designed to be more automated and to improve the remote monitoring of energy use.
“We are making about a $10 million investment in our energy-saving program,” Mr. Harding says. The project includes centralized control stations at each hospital. Already, efficiencies are being seen at some facilities where changes have been made. At Baptist Health’s Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, for example, the hospital’s monthly energy consumption over the past few months has decreased by about 10 percent in comparison with the same months last year. This is especially important, Mr. Harding says, as electricity costs continue to rise.
When Baptist Health’s West Kendall Baptist Hospital opened in 2011, the building was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it one of the first gold-certified hospitals in Florida. The hospital features white roofing products to reduce the effects of heat, high-efficiency chillers and handlers, dual-flush toilets, furniture made from high-recycled content and low-emitting paints, carpets and other accessories. Since opening, it has offered charging stations for electric vehicles, hosted the county’s Adopt-a-Tree program, eliminated plastic straws and implemented dozens of other earth-friendly initiatives.
Since then, Baptist Health has looked for numerous ways to lower its use of electricity, gas and water across its health system. It has retrofitted lighting at all facilities so that LED, cost-effective and longer-lasting bulbs are used, analyzed its air conditioning chillers to coordinate the timing and load based on outside temperature and humidity combined with building usage, and planned renovations with the newest technologies in mind. New construction meets updated green conservation efforts.
“We continue to focus on improving the health and well-being of our community,” said Matt Arsenault, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “Our investments in sustainability initiatives are in line with the commitment we make to provide great healthcare for our patients and families,” adds Arsenault, the executive champion for sustainability efforts at Baptist Health.
The COVID-19 pandemic also came with its own concerns that require the expertise of Baptist Health’s engineers and facilities crews. “It takes specially trained and skilled employees to ensure that negative airflow rooms are operating properly and to make common areas safer by making them have more negative airflow, too,” Mr. Harding says. “We came up with solutions that included bringing in extra equipment, opening dampers to bring in more fresh air, changing filters more frequently and making sure the infrared lights in the air handling units operated properly because they kill virus. There has been a lot of extra monitoring to keep patients and employees safe.” That was on top of the reconfiguring of areas to meet social distancing recommendations.
As the organization moves forward with its expanded greening projects, it is adding Grow2Heal Gardens at its hospital campuses. The first garden was planted at Homestead Hospital in 2014 and harvests more than 5,000 pounds of produce a year that is used in patient and cafeteria meals. The garden is also the site of school field trips where children learn about nutrition and plant-based meals. Several other Baptist Health hospitals have Grow2Heal Gardens as well.
“As a not-for-profit health system, it is in our DNA to be socially responsible,” said Jason Bell, assistant vice president of operations. “So in addition to looking at what we can do at our facilities in terms of sustainability, we are also focused on the community education piece. Healthy people depend on a healthy environment. We take our role very seriously.”
About Baptist Health South Florida
Baptist Health South Florida is the largest healthcare organization in the region, with 11 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Baptist Health has internationally renowned centers of excellence in cancer, cardiovascular care, orthopedics and sports medicine, and neurosciences. In addition, it includes Baptist Health Medical Group; Baptist Health Quality Network; and Baptist Health Care On Demand, a virtual health platform. A not-for-profit organization supported by philanthropy and committed to its faith-based charitable mission of medical excellence, Baptist Health has been recognized by Fortune as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America and by Ethisphere as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. For more information, visit BaptistHealth.net/Newsroom and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.