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Energy use in Hospitals


Here’s a short piece I wrote for blogs:

According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper I’ve worked in the two most polluting buildings in the UK. Over the course of one year the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel was responsible for the emission of 46,218 tonnes of CO2, (rated G). Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital – in whose A&E department I worked – was the second worst, receiving an F rating. Overall eight of the ten worst polluting buildings in the UK were hospitals which on average emitted 4089 tonnes of CO2 per institution yearly. At the other end of the scale, tourist information centres emit on average 140 tonnes per year.

Hospitals are always going to struggle to be energy efficient. Despite modernisation many are still sprawling behemoths with “legacy” buildings whose origins sometimes stretch over the course of more than a century. Unlike offices, the nature of health care means that hospitals never close and heating costs will be high due to the needs of ill patients.

But still, walk into any hospital department and you’ll find every room is lit at all hours and every computer terminal is on whether or not it is being used. Heating systems are unresponsive and temperature regulation tends to involve opening the windows. This profligacy is hardly surprising as there’s little incentive to conserve* and things like computers aren’t designed to be powered down anyway. Some lights have most likely not been turned off for several years and I’ve only every worked in one place with motion activated lights.

All this will change I hope, although compared with, say, hand disinfecting energy efficiency has a very low profile in the NHS.

* NB: Lest it be thought I am preaching, I am no better than anyone else in this regard.



NHS sustainable development unit


(August 2018 note – they’ve entirely rebuilt the Royal London since I wrote this – I wonder if it’s any better now?)


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  1. Nothing more annoying than being on-call at night and finding all the computers off and all the lights in the stairwells off.

  2. The BMJ commissioned a video late last year, in time for the Copenhagen conference, about how doctors and other health care workers, working in both hospitals and primary care, can help to reduce carbon emissions.

  3. > every computer terminal is on whether or not it is being used … things like computers aren’t designed to be powered down anyway

    er, yes they are. Desktop like computers (which I assume you’re talking about when you say ‘computer terminals’) are designed to be shut down after use. Sounds as if you’ve fallen victim to yet another another old wives’ tale there.