North Broward Hospital District (NBHD) in Fort Lauderdale, the largest public hospital system in Florida, is aware of the economic pressures that face the health care industry today. The non-profit community health system encompasses four acute-care hospitals, plus 35 other satellite facilities, while remaining committed to improving the health of the community through affordable medical services and innovative programs.

A proactive hvac retrofit is even more ambitious than usual for a non-profit entity, but the district officials knew such action was in the best long-term interests of the population it serves. Upgrading and replacing hvac equipment would also improve efficiency, which adds up across the system's 2.5 million sq ft of facilities.

A Delicate Operation

After looking at similar projects at other hospitals in the region, NBHD officials decided to partner with Johnson Controls (Milwaukee) to work on the environmental systems of its hospitals and offices. Johnson responded by developing a customized plan for individual facility enhancements while working with a core team of internal and external facility experts to provide cost-effective, long-term, integrated solutions for the system as a whole.

One of the initial projects posing a challenge to the team was the retrofit of the 30-year-old hvac system serving the 13 surgical suites at Broward General Medical Center. As usual in such an environment, it was critical to maintain all environmental conditions with minimal impact on ongoing operations. Hospital administration, clinical staff, and Johnson project members joined to create a detailed phasing plan. The strategy allowed the cleaning of the entire ductwork system, followed by replacement of the two main surgery air handlers, all while ensuring proper safety and comfort for patients and staff.

The new Metasys building automation system (from Johnson Controls) has resulted in the need for less maintenance, allowing personnel to better monitor, record, and control equipment functions from one site.

Not all of the work was planned from the start. Later on in the project, the mental health unit at Imperial Point Medical Center experienced a significant jump in the number of mechanical workorders to address temperature control problems. The project team searched for a solution, eventually pinpointing the need to retrofit a 20-year-old pneumatic system. After installing a Metasys Companion Workstation, the nurses in that unit are now able to adjust the temperature in an individual patient's room, identifying and addressing problems before they become crises.

Complaints Cool Off

"The hospital has gone from an average of one temperature complaint a day to none over a period of several months," says Joe Sabol, assistant nurse manager of the Imperial Point Medical Center.

Overall, the work yielded several advantages, all contributing to improved performance. Utility failures were eliminated by physical plant upgrades and improved prevention practices. The improved system efficiency and consolidation of operations management also reduced the burden on limited medical center resources.

In addition to the primary benefit of improved patient comfort, John Lawrence, NBHD's vice president of support services, sums up the project's effect on his staff.

"By working together as a team with Johnson Controls, we have taken the burden off our facility personnel, allowing them to focus on their core responsibilities."ES