September 10, 2012

Westside Medical Center reduces parking garage power usage

HILLSBORO, Ore. — When it comes to reducing the carbon footprint at its new hospital in Hillsboro, Kaiser Permanente is looking everywhere for energy savings, including the garage. Thanks to some smart design, the parking facility uses 25 percent less electricity than allowed by the building code.

The garage’s energy efficiency is an example of Kaiser Permanente designing Westside Medical Center to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards while maintaining safe lighting levels for patients, visitors and staff.

Hospital parking garages use a significant amount of energy because building codes require them to be well-lit at all hours. The garage at Westside Medical Center is the tallest building in Hillsboro, with 948 spaces on eight levels. A conventional approach to lighting could have led to big utility bills. Here’s how designers turned the garage into an energy saver, one that uses just 25 percent of the electricity allowed by the building code:

High-efficiency light fixtures.

  • Computer modeling to determine how many fixtures to use, where to place them and how much light they should produce. Only half as many fixtures were needed compared with a similar structure.
  • Photoelectric sensors turn off perimeter lighting when daylight is sufficient.
  • Motion sensors allow some fixtures to dim or turn off when no one is around.
  • Glossy white ceiling paint reflects light instead of absorbing it. The effect reduces the need for fixtures by 50 percent while maintaining brightness and visibility.

Good design also has spared neighbors from excessive light. Light fixtures are placed far enough inside the garage that their sideways light is shielded even as the floor remains well-lit. A “living wall” of climbing vines will further block stray light from the structure to surrounding dwellings.

“Kaiser Permanente is committed to reducing our energy use by 2 percent each year for the next 10 years,” says Matthew Miller, Kaiser Permanente National Facilities Services project director. “We knew that just meeting code wasn’t good enough. Designing and building the Westside Medical Center to significantly reduce energy use was one of several benefits of seeking LEED Gold certification for the campus.”

Energy conservation experts have taken notice.

“Kaiser Permanente’s parking garage shows how energy efficiency can be achieved in almost any setting,” says Jessica Rose, a business sector manager at Energy Trust of Oregon. “We expect the garage lighting to save almost 300,000 annual kilowatt hours, which is enough to power 27 Oregon homes for a year.”

To verify that Kaiser Permanente was meeting both safe lighting levels and energy-saving targets, Energy Trust engineers paid a nighttime visit to the parking garage. Equipped with light meters and calculators, they verified that the project has met its goals.