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Keeping Health Facilities from Getting Heated

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Collaboration increases climate resilience and cooling capacity at BC Cancer – Vancouver

Heat waves have become a regular occurrence during Vancouver summers, posing significant dangers to vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions. Recognizing the critical importance of addressing this issue at BC Cancer – Vancouver, PHSA’s Facilities Maintenance & Operations (FMO) and the Energy & Environmental Sustainability (EES) teams have joined forces to assess the site’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and potential solutions.

In 2022, FMO and EES enlisted the expertise of a specialized consultant to investigate the facility’s mechanical cooling systems and determine the measures needed to ensure occupant comfort during temperature spikes. The existing configuration of the cooling plant prevents the two chillers from operating at the same time. This issue was assessed and the findings of the consultant’s study proposed solutions such as retrofitting a few pumps and upgrading building control devices such as valves, controllers, and sensors to enhance the cooling capacity at the site.

Building control devices at BC Cancer – Vancouver.

To prepare for the summer of 2023, FMO and PHSA carefully reviewed the study’s recommendations, focusing on the most feasible solutions, and allocated funding for initial implementation projects. Significant upgrades have now been completed, and the forthcoming warmer months will provide ample opportunity to assess the effectiveness of these improvements and make any necessary adjustments.

This project has yielded valuable insights. First, it demonstrated that enhancing climate resilience often aligns with other priorities and goals within a health-care facility. From a technical perspective, testing and verification were employed to determine how the two chillers could operate simultaneously without requiring the replacement of existing piping and cooling towers. This approach proved to be cost-effective while also improving long-term building performance. To support patients and staff at BC Cancer – Vancouver, the cooling capacity project reduces health risks associated with heat waves, improves patient outcomes, and enhances overall staff productivity and well-being.

Finally, the initiative highlighted that enhancing resilience in the face of climate change is truly a collaborative effort. The FMO team at BC Cancer – Vancouver contributed their extensive knowledge of the facility, which was further enriched by insights from the consultant, the EES and the project management team at PHSA. This successful partnership will continue in the subsequent phases of cooling improvements at the site. Ghazal Ebrahimi, Energy and Emissions Manager for PHSA, expresses optimism, stating,

We believe that strategic thinking and planning will significantly enhance the facility’s cooling capacity, ensuring the comfort of patients and staff as temperatures continue to rise.”