22 May 2022

UL Hospitals Group ushers in a new era of energy sustainability

UL Hospitals Group ushers in a new era of energy sustainability

Rachel Keating, Clodagh Hanratty, Kevin Mahoney, Niall Joyce at the bank of PV cells on the roof of the 60-Bed Block at UHL

UL HOSPITALS Group's efforts in recent years to future-proof new developments and upgrade its existing building stock is part of a national HSE campaign aimed at providing quality healthcare that minimises impact on the environment.

The HSE Capital & Estates Climate Action & Sustainability Office has identified the HSE’s 14 largest energy users in the Mid-West region, of which University Hospital Limerick is the largest, and over the past number of years has been working to make the sites more sustainable. Nationally, the HSE has committed to become a leading sustainable organisation, delivering healthcare in a way that preserves natural resources, reduces carbon emissions, and mitigates the effects of climate change, while also safeguarding high quality care and treatment for patients.


Work undertaken to date through collaborative initiatives between HSE Capital & Estates and UL Hospitals Group is already having a significant impact, resulting in six-figure cost savings, reducing CO2 emissions, and also enabling the Group to power itself independently on occasions when demand has the potential to destabilise the national grid.

Clodagh Hanratty, Estates Manager, HSE Capital & Estates, said the partnership between HSE Capital & Estates Climate Action and Sustainability Office and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland was crucial to the successful completion of energy improvement works across the sites.

"In recent years, UL Hospitals Group has benefited from decreased carbon emissions and highly energy efficient new extensions initiating the pathway to achieving our Climate Action Plan target of reducing emissions by 51% by 2030," said Ms Hanratty.

To bring UL Hospitals Group into line with national efforts to make the country more sustainable has required an equal focus on future-proofing of new developments, and on bringing older systems and buildings into line with contemporary standards. 

Retrofitting of Existing Buildings

The most recent retrofitting initiatives across Group have included the insulation of pipework in plant rooms and roofs, and replacing older pumps with modern, energy-efficient pumps. LED lighting upgrades have been undertaken, and advanced efficient control systems installed for boilers. These initiatives have complemented previous works, including PV Panels (solar panels) and rainwater harvesting in Ennis Hospital, in addition to a combined heat and power (CHP) system in UHL, which generates energy on-site. The latter has since been upgraded.

New Construction Projects

The retrofitting efforts have proceeded alongside the development of new projects, particularly in UHL, which are all compliant with NZEB (Near Zero Energy Buildings) standards and have high degrees of insulation and efficient building services. The renewable energy sources included in some of the recent constructions at UHL include PV Panels in the 60-bed block; in the diagnostics laboratory; and in the staff Health and Wellbeing Building. Air-source heat pumps, which transfer heat absorbed from the outside air to provide heat for radiators and hot water, have been used in the diagnostics lab, the 24-bed and 14-bed blocks and in the Health & Wellbeing building.

Croom Orthopaedic Hospital

Croom Orthopaedic Hospital has benefited significantly in recent times from the development of a brand new 24-bed inpatient block and a state-of-the-art operating theatre suite and sterile services department. There has also been a focus on tackling the hospital’s status as the HSE’s largest user of oil in the Mid-West during 2021.

Consequently, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital has become the first acute HSE facility in the country to be upgraded from oil or gas burners to air source heat pumps. The project was completed in January 2022, and it is anticipated that significant energy, costs and CO2 savings will result.

Benefits for UL Hospitals Group and the Environment

The retrofitting effort has resulted in energy savings of 3.6-million kWh across the sites of UL Hospitals Group. For perspective, a single watthour is the amount of energy expended by a one-watt load, such as a light bulb, drawing power for one hour. These initiatives have created savings of approximately €184,000, helping to offset the emission of 991 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to the CO2 absorbed by 45,000 trees, or the emissions from driving 2.5-million kilometres in an average car.

Current energy usage in UHL alone would be approximately 10% greater had such retrofit and upgrading not been implemented. While it is too early to provide data for the efficiencies and cost savings that will accrue through the retrofitting and energy efficient design of new builds, the works undertaken by the Group to date have played a role in helping to stabilise the national grid during periods of high demand.

During October and November 2021, two power stations were deactivated for maintenance, and under a scheme in which it is participating for the past 18 months, ESB Networks requested the Group to run its own generators during peak time periods (4-7pm) on six occasions, thereby significantly reducing the load on a national grid and maximising stability at a time it is under the highest demand.

Future focus

As UL Hospitals Group and other acute healthcare settings across the country begin to focus on priorities that have for the past two years been overshadowed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the May 2021 cyber-attack on HSE IT systems, the HSE Capital & Estates and UL Hospitals Group via the HSE Sustainability Committee is now turning its attention to development of a ‘behavioural change’ campaign on all sites. The aim is to maximise the impact of the infrastructural developments and upgrades by getting staff workforces to become more engaged with day-to-day energy savings through turning off lights and heating that is unneeded, closing windows while heating is on.

Rachel Keating, Energy Officer, HSE Capital and Estates, stated: "Energy usage across HSE facilities is being reduced by implementing energy improvement works, promoting Energy Efficient Design and establishing energy and sustainability teams. ULHG and HSE Capital & Estates are continuing to identify new energy upgrade projects and encourage cognisance of energy awareness for all staff in their day to day work."

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