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UC Irvine to open first all-electric US hospital

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 01, 2023
Business Affairs Emergency Medicine
UC Irvine will open the first fully electrical hospital in the U.S. in 2025.
University of California, Irvine is on track to completely open the first all-electrical U.S. medical center by 2025, cutting total greenhouse gas emissions along with associated costs and ill health effects.

The 144-bed hospital and emergency room, which will be UC Irvine’s second major medical campus, has been under construction since November 2021, and will be part of the university’s $1.3-billion medical complex, the UCI Medical Center Irvine-Newport, which will include an advanced care outpatient center, a children’s health center, and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building, which will be the first to open in spring 2024.

Essential Utilities, a plant that does not use carbon combustion or natural gas, will power the hospital, which will have backup diesel generators in case of power failures, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The healthcare sector is estimated to be responsible for nearly 5% of global net emissions, with a large portion due to imaging, and 24/7 use of operating rooms and other hospital areas.

According to Joe Brothman, facilities and general services director for UCI Health, Irvine’s all-electrical operations will not only reduce its carbon footprint but save on fluctuating costs for natural gas.

“We’re not beholden to those energy prices that are totally out of our control,” Brothman told the LA Times. “We can choose to use electricity and purchase power on the open market.”

The building’s central utilities will use technologies to produce chilled and hot water to heat and cool it, as well as steam for humidification and cleaning. But instead of a standard single central boiler, it will have small steam boilers at each point of use to prevent a ruptured steam line during emergencies that render its heating, cooling and cleaning processes unusable.

While full electrification of UCI Health’s other facilities is a long way off, the organization is working with a team of experts to make this switch in existing buildings, including those on its Orange Campus, its first major medical campus.

Other providers have also launched their own initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints, such as the University of California, San Francisco, which partnered with Siemens Healthineers in 2021 to launch the first carbon-neutral radiology imaging service, using the manufacturer’s Smart infrastructure solutions to monitor power consumption of radiology equipment at UCSF, and research ways to reduce standby energy consumption of MR scanners.

In a study published in April 2023, it found that when switched from idle to off-mode for 12 hours overnight, energy consumption in MR scanners dropped 25%-33%, and that with an eco-power mode saving feature, they saved an additional 22%-28% of energy.

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