Case Study: Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Oregon
The Portland VA Medical Center (PVAMC) in Portland, Oregon, is a 1,363,000 square foot facility with a wide range of frequent use water-related equipment. To help reduce water use, PVAMC commissioned FEMP to conduct a detailed water audit of the Medical Center.
The Medical Center put the audit to work, implementing a number of measures to reduce water consumption and meet Executive Order (E.O.) 13423 requirements. E.O. 13423 mandates that Federal agencies reduce water consumption intensity through life-cycle cost-effective measures by 2% annually through the end of fiscal year 2015 — or 16% by the end of fiscal year 2015 — based on a fiscal year 2007 baseline.
Using utility records, PVAMC determined its fiscal year 2007 water consumption baseline at 42.272 million gallons. To reduce that number, PVAMC examined water use rates across a variety of equipment, including toilets, urinals, faucets, single-pass water-cooled equipment, boiler operations, and water treatment systems. The data was analyzed to determine how much water new equipment could save and the cost to install it. Cost estimates were based on experience with similar projects and estimates from local contractors.
In 2008, PVAMC initiated a water conservation project to upgrade the facility to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) standards. Specific activities included converting:
- 348 toilets from 3-4 gallons-per-flush (gpf) to 1.6 gpf
- 37 urinals from 2-3 gpf to waterless devices
- 590 faucets from 3.5-5 gallons-per-minute (gpm) to 1.5-2 gpm laminar flow
- 110 showerheads from 2.5-4 gpm to 1 gpm
The Medical Center's water conservation project delivered tremendous results. The project realized a 9.2% reduction in water use, or 1,643,200 gallons of water saved and more than $19,000 in annual cost savings. This dropped the facility's water use to 38.389 million gallons in fiscal year 2008 compared to the 42.272 million gallon fiscal year 2007 baseline.
Specific water savings details per measure taken include (based on a population of 3,000):
|Item||Number of Items||Days of Use per Year||Average Use per Day||Water Saved per Unit/Flush||Total Savings per Year (Gallons)|
These results present the following cost savings (sewer charge is based on water use, and the data is based on April 2008 numbers):
|Item||Gallons of Water Saved per Year||Cost per Gallon of Water & Sewer||Total Savings per Year|
Additional Project Results
In addition to the water conservation project, PVAMC performed added water conservation activities. To date, the hospital has:
- Replaced single-pass water-cooled ice machines with air-cooled machines
- Replaced water-cooled medical air compressors and vacuum pumps with air-cooled systems
- Increased the efficiency of boiler operations
The old medical vacuum pump and medical air compressors operated 24 hours a day and were cooled by a steady flow of fresh water. This "once thru" process was very expensive and wasteful using approximately 12 gpm. After exploring all options, the Medical Center replaced these units with air-cooled units that require no water for cooling. In addition, the horsepower of these units was decreased from 75 to 20 to further reduce energy consumption. The combination resulted in a simple payback of less than one year.
In the past, boiler bottom blowdown was carried out nightly. An all-polymer program was initiated to replace the phosphate program by recommendation of the water treatment company. This allows the boiler's bottom blowdowns to be reduced to once weekly and nearly all blowdown is done automatically by surface blowdown controlled by a conductivity controller. The boiler plant also added a water softener to increase the quality of the already excellent water received from the city. This significantly reduced blowdown and chemical usage. The boiler plant currently maintains at 50-60 cycles of concentration on the boilers and enjoys a condensate return rate of 93%. The water treatment company recommendations were based on city water knowledge, boiler water testing, and state requirements.
The cooling tower makeup/blowdown/treatment is controlled by a state-of-the-art cooling tower monitoring system that continuously monitors for microbio, corrosion, scale formation, and system stresses. Based on its findings, the system makes changes to use as little water and chemical as possible. This is an extremely water-efficient approach because it constantly monitors parameters and makes appropriate changes.
The simple payback period across projects is estimated at 2.12 years. The individual breakdown includes:
|Water Efficiency Measure||Installation Cost ($)||Annual Water Savings ($)||Simple Payback Period (Years)||Discounted Payback Period (Years)|
|Toilets & Urinals||104,000||33,800||3.0||4.0|
|Sing Pass Equipment||50,000||15,000||3.3||---|
In addition to conserving water, PVAMC greatly reduced energy consumption by reducing its hot water load. Less energy is needed to heat water because less hot water is used. Operations and maintenance activities were also updated to optimize efficiency. These activities add up in large facilities like PVAMC.
The Medical Center also took the opportunity to ensure all replaced plumbing fixtures meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. All toilets, urinals, faucets, and other fixtures were updated accordingly.
In the coming years, the Medical Center plans additional water-saving measures to comply further with E.O. requirements. Planned measures include installing state-of-the-art sterilizers, installing automatically controlled faucets in public areas to limit use to less than 10 seconds, and improving irrigation controls.
Plans are to incorporate water conservation activities at the Medical Center's Vancouver Division similar to the projects implemented in Portland. Boiler plant and laundry upgrade projects are planned to replace boilers with more efficient units that use less water to make steam. The Vancouver Division will also make repairs to leaking condensate lines and replace steam traps. Another project with large water saving potential is the reuse of final wash water to pre-soak laundry.
These and other planned water conservation measures will enable the Portland VA Medical Center in Portland and at the Vancouver Division to meet and/or exceed E.O. 13423 mandate to reduce water consumption intensity by 2% annually through fiscal year 2015 — based on a fiscal year 2007 baseline.
FEMP provides technical assistance for water conservation audits and other project activities. For additional information, contact your agency's FEMP client representative (Excel 28 KB).