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How can digital advances help our new hospital facilities to be more sustainable?

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Steven Hipwell is a Senior Programme Consultant and Digital Lead for the New Hospitals Programme. Here, he discusses hospital sustainability and how new technology supports the programme’s vision for creating state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly facilities.

Why is sustainability such a priority for the New Hospitals Programme?

As outlined in the New Hospitals Programme’s Case for Change report, our current infrastructure does not support either our digital or environmental ambitions for hospital facilities in our region.

The NHS has set out a plan to deliver net zero carbon services by 2040, called Greener NHS 2020 (opens in new window). New infrastructure and related digital services will be crucial to building more efficient spaces, using them more effectively and reducing travel by delivering care closer to home. New hospital facilities in Lancashire and South Cumbria will follow this approach, playing our part in creating a greener NHS.

Our new facilities will be compliant with Health Building Notes (opens in new window), the best practice guidelines for healthcare buildings. They’ll also achieve an appropriate BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Methods) (opens in new window) rating, the world’s leading sustainability assessment method.

How can digital technology help to achieve those ambitions?

Digital technology is one of the ways in which we’ll be able to deliver sustainable, high quality and accessible care. However, the poor condition of our current hospital estate and backlog of maintenance needs means our buildings are not as kind to the environment as they could be and are expensive to run.

Digital technology can improve comfort and carbon emissions, which will also help with the efficient and cost-effective running of the new hospital buildings. Some examples include:

  • The building’s controls for services such as heating, lighting, ventilation, and air conditioning can be programmed to automatically adjust to a range of internal and external conditions to optimise comfort, operating costs and sustainability
  • Heating, lighting and other services can be programmed against occupancy levels to help measure and manage utilisation
  • Devices and services can be automated to switch on in preparation for expected use, and power-off accordingly
  • Location and identity management technologies can be used to track and pinpoint the whereabouts of people and physical assets for access to services, security and safety, such as in the event of an evacuation.

Are there any examples of where this is working already?

Intelligent buildings have been around for years, but have been limited by the technology available. That is changing as more and more advances take place. There are many case studies from around the world, and nearer to home, of digital innovation helping hospital facilities to become more sustainable.

Wythenshawe Hospital (opens in new window) in South Manchester was the first hospital to introduce biomass boilers, heating the facility using sustainable wood pellets instead of fossil fuels. This gave the hospital the capacity to reduce carbon emissions by 3,400 tonnes per year. This innovation was one of the reasons the hospital is known as ‘Britain’s Greenest Hospital.’

The VA Caribbean Healthcare System (opens in new window) is a healthcare network for veterans in Florida, Georgia and the Caribbean. Its new Mayaguez Outpatient Clinic produces up to 90% of its energy from solar panels. This new site also captures and stores storm water for safe reuse in certain clinical operations.

In proposals for new hospital facilities in Leeds (opens in new window), sustainability provisions being considered include; rainwater collection and biofiltration, the capture and reuse of wasted heat, outdoor gardens and green space with provisions for bee, bat and bird hotels and onsite solar energy harvesting.

Sustainable buildings are a major priority for the New Hospitals Programme. Digital technology has a big role in making that happen.

Read more about the shortlist of proposals for new hospital facilities in our region.

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© 2021 Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme.