Ensuring care in any situation

Summer 2013

A behind the scenes look at hospital infrastructure

When people think about a hospital, they naturally think about doctors, nurses, staff, patients, clinics and medical equipment. What often goes unconsidered is the incredible infrastructure in place that keeps everything running smoothly and safely, every minute of the day, for 365 days a year.

Hospitals are some of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced facilities in existence today. Because LHSC is a regional referral centre offering the broadest range of acute care services in the province and an academic and research hospital, its infrastructure is truly incredible.

Key elements of that infrastructure include:

  • 3.6 million square feet of physical brick and mortar buildings
  • Water, heating and cooling, electrical and steam systems
  • 197 air handling units that supply highly conditioned air to all areas of the buildings
  • 137 specialty air distribution systems for negative or positive pressure rooms and areas requiring extreme filtration and specialized temperature and humidity control
  • Medical gas, air and vacuum systems
  • Pneumatic tube system used for transporting an average of 600,000 objects such as laboratory samples/specimens around our sites each year
  • More than 100 elevators
  • Over 200 individual roof surfaces
  • 350 acres of land
  • 2 helipads, which make each site a registered and listed airport
  • Parking lots, garages and roadways
  • Waste management including regular garbage disposal, recycling programs and hazardous waste disposal
  • Back-up generator systems capable of powering a small town
  • Cogeneration-based power plant at Victoria Hospital capable of producing up to 11 megawatts of electrical energy along with 130,000lbs/hr of steam


Operational sustainability
For a hospital, a loss of utility isn’t just an inconvenience; it can create potential life or death situations.

If you think about when the hydro goes out at home, you’re not able to do things like watch television or blow dry your hair, but your life generally is not in any immediate danger. Consider instead what a loss of power would mean for a hospital. What would happen to someone that was in the middle of an important surgery or someone who was relying on an emergency life support system if the power suddenly stopped and there was no back-up?

Similarly, as you could get by at home if the water system went down, imagine if the hospital was not able to access running water to flush toilets or create the steam that’s needed to sterilize various equipment or prepare food? We’ve heard about the impact these events have had on vacationers aboard a luxury cruise ship, but what if they were to happen to critically ill individuals staying in a hospital?

Having redundant capacity built into our systems is critical as it allows LHSC to meet its goal of providing continuous uninterrupted service to patients during times of utility loss.

Our first line of defence during a power outage is the back-up generators. At Victoria Hospital, our diesel generators are capable of producing enough energy to allow us to continue operating with minimal disruption, providing most essential services and powering all life support systems. The new power plant addition, once operational in June 2013, will also add the capacity needed to produce enough steam to meet demand should external utilities fail. At University Hospital, the recent installation of four new diesel generators means that we have the capability to power everything in the building without disruption. To meet University Hospital’s steam needs during a loss of utility, LHSC is planning to install backup steam generators by the fall of 2014.

Generating our own power
In 1998 Victoria Hospital’s power plant became a cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP), site with the installation of a five-megawatt, gas-fired turbine. Driven by a Rolls Royce low emissions jet engine, this system generates enough electricity to power approximately 4,500 average sized homes along with nearly 41,000kgs of steam each hour. Using natural gas to produce this power also lowers environmental emissions while providing additional back-up power for the hospital during any prolonged blackouts.

In 2006 a backpressure turbine was added to the power plant, producing an additional two megawatts of essentially free electricity. This unit operates in place of a pressure-reducing valve reducing high pressure steam to its proper pressure for distribution to the hospital. This extra electricity takes even more demand off the city grid and reduces our CO2 emissions by 560 tonnes a year.

The power plant addition houses a four-megawatt gas turbine generator which, once operational, will increase both our electrical and steam production capacity. Together with the original turbine, LHSC’s power plant will produce enough electricity to meet the needs of a large town.

LHSC is also part of a group of organizations that are working with London Hydro to demonstrate the benefits of solar power. Four solar panels were installed on LHSC grounds around Victoria Hospital. Operational since the spring of 2011, each solar panel produces enough energy to supply three residential homes with enough power to support periods of peak energy use. To date, each panel has a carbon offset that is equivalent to three acres of green space.

By generating our own power and retrofitting our sites to be more energy efficient, LHSC has been able to reduce energy costs by $3 million each year. This savings will continue to grow as we continue to increase our production capabilities.

Offsetting our carbon footprint
As a heavy consumer of both natural and man-made resources that also produces millions of pounds of waste each year, LHSC is committed to sustainability and conservation. To offset our large carbon footprint we have implemented a number of ecologically focused programs and strategies.

One main way that we stay as green as possible is through retrofitting, which allows us to tune-up our facilities by adding new technology or features to our existing systems. Over the past 13 years, LHSC has initiated multiple retrofit phases and installations that have upgraded building envelopes, systems and equipment. Each retrofit project has been focused on upgrading efficiency and technology to lower ecological impacts (primarily the release of greenhouse gases) and benefit from economic savings. Through retrofit projects alone, LHSC has been able to reduce its energy use by over 25 per cent per year.

As well, we’ve built upon our previous energy stewardship program and have created a stewardship team with a focus on four key quadrants: energy, waste, procurement and grounds.

  • Energy
    The energy stewardship program addresses all aspects of energy use from the design and construction of new facility spaces, to the retrofit of existing equipment and systems, to the engagement of staff in saving energy.
  • Waste
    The waste reduction team finds new ways to recycle waste leaving our facilities and continually researches new technologies for treating our waste. Centered on the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) this team is working to reduce the millions of pounds of regular, biomedical, and chemical waste generated annually. To date, we’ve reduced the volume of waste headed for the landfill by 32 per cent.
  • Procurement
    The green procurement program (GPP) ensures that environmental considerations (toxicity, disposal methods/costs, manufacturing processes, etc.) are weighted along with availability, quality, dependability and price of products and materials.
  • Grounds
    With 350 acres of land, 120 planted gardens and 820 trees, LHSC is linked closely to the natural environment and we take our commitment to providing accessible green space seriously. The grounds of all sites are totally pesticide/herbicide free and weed control on hard surface areas is done using a completely natural and biodegradable solution.

    Healing Gardens
    An important and unique feature of our grounds is our healing gardens. These provide patients and family members with access to tranquil green space, which has been proven to have a therapeutic effect.

  • Each of our four healing gardens holds their own special meaning.

  • Alex’s Butterfly Garden is located outside of the paediatric critical care unit at Children’s Hospital. It was inspired by the passing of Alex Lesley Hart and dedicated in honour of perinatal and infant loss
  • The Jahnke Family Garden at the London Regional Cancer Program provides a quiet place for patients and families as they move through their cancer journey
  • The Franklin Garden is located beside the South Entrance of the London Regional Cancer Program and was designed specifically for the cancer centre
  • Drake Memorial Garden, named in honour of Dr. Charles Drake, a world renowned LHSC neurosurgeon, is located at the front entrance of University Hospital


Patients and visitors can learn more about how LHSC is operated by visiting one of the ‘Windows on the World’ touch-screen terminals that are located around the hospitals. Each displays information about LHSC’s energy consumption and generation, ecological savings and environmental initiatives.

Always improving
Even with additions to staff and building space over the years, the total energy consumption per square meter continues to decrease. LHSC continues to modernize and improve its facilities so that safe patient care is always available in any situation. With continued efforts to raise staff awareness, generate our own clean energy and retire resources in the most ecologically friendly manner, LHSC is doing its part to leave a cleaner planet for the next generation.

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Gary Zions, manager of energy services and chief operating engineer at LHSC’s power plant, stands inside in the control room which overlooks the power plant’s new addition
Ray Giffen, coordinator of facilities engineering at LHSC, is inside the part of University Hospital where the hospital’s electricity, steam and water systems are housed
Ray Giffen, coordinator of facilities engineering at LHSC, operates one of the computerized systems found inside the switchgear room at University Hospital. The mammoth switchgear room is the hospital’s equivalent to the breaker panel box found inside your homes
The Franklin Garden beside the South entrance of the London Regional Cancer Program
Alex's Butterfly Garden, located outside of the paediatric critical care unit at Children's Hospital
The Jahnke Family Garden at the London Regional Cancer Program
Drake Memorial Garden, named in honour of Dr. Charles Drake, a world renowned LHSC neurosurgeon, is located at the front entrance of University Hospital