16 Oct 2008
Sounds like an interesting project!
Here are some of my thoughts on it all:
1. What is the scope of your project? Is it just energy for the buildings or does the brief include transport (ambulances, logistics etc), staff and patient commuting, waste management etc?
2. Remember that hospitals don't just need heating and electricity, but also ventilation, cooling, oxygen, food and waste facilities - could your sustainable energy solutions help address any of these issues too? For example, can you reduce food miles by linking the facility with nearby farms?
3. The first step should definitely be as early as possible - is this an existing hospital or a new build? If it's a new build, the biggest effect you can have on the sustainability is the design and planning. Where will it be located? Near farmland, woodland, a river, a windy plain? What natural resources can you make use of? Designing the building to have the maximum economic level of insulation, to use natural daylight and passive solar heating and to have effective communications channels for people to travel through without needing to resort to cars are all vital in reducing the energy requirements of the facility.
4. What about man-made resources? How can it best be integrated with effective public transport for its catchment area? Are there any other facilities nearby which could be linked (e.g. using waste heat from a manufacturing facility or being situated near to a waste to energy or combined generation power plant) to make overall savings?
5. How can you combine the available renewable energy sources to meet the energy needs of the hospital in terms of electricity, thermal regulation, fuels and waste management on a day-to-day level whilst maintaining redundancy in the power supply for emergency backup(s)?
6. My first guess would be that a combined generation electricity and heating grid with multiple sources of generation could work well. Bioenergy and solar thermal could provide the main fuel for heating (and cooling?), and perhaps some electricity generation through an anaerobic digestion facility in conjunction with a gas turbine or fuel cell. Wind, hydro and/or solar PV could provide electricity backed up by the national grid.
Anyway, I hope these are enough thoughts to get you started on. There are certainly examples out there of biomass-heated and fuel cell-powered medical facilities. Good luck with your project.