Survey: Healthcare Needs More Sustainability Managers

Three of four respondents think hospitals need a sustainability manager. This trend stood out along with several others in a survey conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Health Care Council and Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute (CRDMI) as part of a seminar series on “Energy, Economics & Environment: Making the 3Es Work Together in Health Care.” The seminar series is at its halfway mark with a total of 10 cities scheduled throughout 2010.

Among the key findings:

  • Everyone thinks energy costs are going up; it’s just a matter of how high.
  • When retooling for sustainability, 73% say appointing a sustainability manager is the most important step.
  • 94% say green washing is worse than ever.
  • First cost dominates purchasing decisions to the dismay of all — except in Chicago.
  • A big worry is prevalent that new technology may not deliver expected performance.
  • Reliability of infrastructure outweighs other concerns — except in Chicago.
  • Evidence based design is employed occasionally by 67%, nearly always by 32%.
  • Midwestern healthcare professionals think they’re just as sustainable as other industries. But, the reverse is true in Sunbelt cities surveyed who say healthcare is doing worse than other industries.

When asked what takes precedence in final selection of equipment and materials on recent projects, nearly 80% say “initial cost.” The exception is Chicago, as nearly 50% in the Windy City select equipment and materials on the basis of sustainable features or durability/expected life.

These findings can also be linked to a breakdown in understanding basic finance and value propositions. Survey respondents scored poorly on cost/revenue related questions. Less than one third answered correctly when asked “What’s the equivalent in revenue for every dollar the average hospital saves on energy?”

There were some striking regional differences between Midwestern and Sunbelt cities. In the Midwest, more than 60% believe that the healthcare industry is implementing sustainable solutions as effectively as—or better than—other industries. It was the reverse in the Sunbelt cities of Phoenix and Tampa, as more than 70% said “We’re doing worse than other industries.”

There was universal agreement about green washing, however. More than 90% of respondents in every city waived red cards at manufacturers and suppliers saying green washing is more prevalent than two years ago. When it comes to researching scientific sources when selecting products or equipment, 73% said they do this occasionally and 24% responded almost always or always.

Kansas City differed than the other cities on the “appoint a sustainability manager” trend. In Kansas City, only 50% said to select a sustainability manager. Nearly one third — 30% — preferred creating a sustainability committee and another 20% said obtaining building certification through the LEED or ENERGY STAR was the next best step.

The reliability and performance of technology touted as being energy saving also surfaced as major concerns. When asked about their biggest concern when installing or specifying energy saving technology, 70% responded “may not deliver projected performance.” When asked what issues worry you the most in facility operations, 64% said reliability of infrastructure. Only in Chicago was this not true, as nearly 80% in the Windy City said “regulatory pressure” was their biggest concern.

The survey is being conducted among attendees of the Energy, Economics & Environment seminar series, which is available for download on The survey, podcast, and seminar series are part of the IFMA Healthcare Council’s mission to keep health care professionals abreast of the most critical trends in 21st Century hospitals.