How to leverage edge solutions to improve your healthcare facility

We’re experiencing a fundamental shift in the way we experience healthcare.

With the surge of COVID-19, healthcare facilities face new, critical demands in the way they deliver patient care.

While doctors and nurses navigate adopting interoperability and telehealth solutions to enhance the way they provide care, IT and operations departments are embracing the edge to help keep up on the demand.

The Challenge of Healthcare IT

The increasing need to reduce costs and improve capacity are driving healthcare providers to look for ways to improve efficiency and worker productivity.

As healthcare facilities work together to combat the virus, the technology and network needed to support them is equally critical.

Rethink Your IT Architecture

Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and concerns regarding availability, expanding your network is a must.

Embracing innovation while driving costs down should be at the forefront of your edge transformation strategy.

You’ll need to rethink your IT architecture that supports edge growth.  You can plan and prepare by asking questions:

  • Where do you need to add capacity?
  • How can you add it efficiently with minimal downtime?
  • How can you manage new edge sites effectively?

Additionally, you’ll need to plan on how to mitigate higher energy consumption. Economizers and lithium ion batteries are just one of the many ways you can help support efficiency.

Invest in New Equipment that Supports Your Goals

Aging equipment will no longer cut it. Old systems can hold you back and not fully support your edge goals.

But a complete overhaul of systems can be costly. Start by identifying and prioritizing which equipment is need of an upgrade and phase in new purchases as your budget allows.

Equipment upgrades and replacements will help decrease costs and environmental footprint offering a better return on your investment in the long run.

Centralize Visibility and Management

With more connected devices and staff on board means more computing capacity is critical.

So, an investment in robust remote monitoring should be top of your list. This will help you monitor environmental conditions and troubleshoot issues quickly.

In addition to centralizing visibility and management, be sure to train staff on your company’s policies and protocols as new technologies and medical equipment integrate with the network.

Prepare for the Edge with Confidence

Move and grow your edge network with confidence.

We can help you design, prepare, and plan your edge network with our industry-leading data center solutions:

  • Data Center Services
  • Power Management Services
  • UPS Rental
  • DCIM and Monitoring
  • Precision Cooling and Thermal Management
  • Uninterruptable power supplies
  • Management Software
  • Racks and Containment

Partner with Dedicated Mission-Critical Solution Experts

Beyond the challenges related to COVID-19, the healthcare industry is a complex industry. You need a partner who understands the requirements for your industry with dedication to efficiency and safety.

We can not only help your facility face today’s challenges, but continue to help lower your power costs, increase your security, and create a strong, reliable infrastructure, so you and your team can focus on providing your patients with the best possible care.

Reduce Risk of Business Failure with a Blended Building Maintenance Approach

As building owners and managers work through their annual budgeting cycles, building upgrades and maintenance decisions are made based on both return on investment (ROI) and on business risk avoidance. According to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), repair and maintenance account for roughly 12 percent of total expenses. However, in many cases, management falls into a pattern where needed building maintenance is underfunded. Over time, this deferred building maintenance approach (“the we’ll take care of it next year approach”) begins to pose serious risks. The cost of the eventual fixes continues to climb each year and the prospect of a catastrophic failure (like loss of the main boiler or chiller plant) becomes very real. When such an event occurs, the loss of the business can soon follow.

Why would organizations put themselves into such a precarious position? Many times, it comes down to human nature and the need to follow the path of least resistance. To a CFO, the maintenance-related budgetary requests coming in from building facilities staff can often be difficult to visualize. Physical infrastructure systems (power, cooling, heating) operate behind the scenes and seem to silently perform their jobs year after year. The thinking can be “it has worked for 25 years now, certainly it can still work for 26.” In addition, the cost of fixing these systems is often high and always appears as an unexpected, unwanted budgetary item. Yet, over time a costly critical systems failure will result if no action is taken.

Pragmatic Approaches for Sensible Funding of Infrastructure Maintenance

As an experienced building automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric master-level EcoXpert, our company, Stark Tech Group, works with building owners to avoid such a dilemma. We recommend a more programmatic approach to both planning and funding for building infrastructure maintenance.

Here’s what we recommend:

  • Formalize the plan – When assembling an overall facility master plan, organize budgetary line items into categories represented by blocks (see Figure 1 below). These blocks are organized according to both ROI and business criticality. Those blocks above the center line can use utility negotiations to secure better rates and use savings to retrofit lighting systems, variable frequency drives and more. Temperature controls are an easy solution to boost energy efficiency but represent budgetary items with shorter return on investment (ROI). Those blocks below the center line— replacement of chillers and air handling units, replacement of boilers—are more critical but represent longer ROI.
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  • Make “blended” decisions – Once the key line items have been properly categorized, embrace a more blended programmatic approach which avoids addressing issues one at a time, and instead uses savings from multiple actions that reduce costs to pay for larger capital investments. The natural tendency for most organizations is to ONLY focus on those items listed above the line, ignoring the mission-critical work that needs to be done to address the systems below the line. Time is spent working with numerous vendors who singularly try to convince the enterprise to address one box at a time. Under such a scenario, the focus is on the financial enhancement of the facility today, rather than addressing mission-critical items below the line that have long-term impacts on the efficiency of the building.
  • Alter the funding method – For long-term success and operational stability, use the gains accrued from those blocks above the center line (high ROI) to fund the maintenance and / or replacement of the items that are below the line (high criticality). In this way, deferred maintenance costs are kept to a minimum and the risk of catastrophic failure remains low.

Legionella Contamination Risk Should Be Concern for Dormant Buildings

As more States enter the later phases of reopening, many business owners are focused on disinfection protocols, new safety standards and occupancy restrictions aimed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. While these practices are important for occupant safety, there is another silent killer that should be on every building owner’s radar.

Legionaires’ Disease is spread by inhaling water droplets contaminated with Legionella pneumophilia bacteria. While rare, this bacterium may form in inactive buildings, such as schools, gyms, office buildings and other buildings that were left abandoned for far longer than a week – the time frame for when Legionella risk begins to increase. Legionaires’ Disease presents similar to coronavirus as it causes severe pneumonia in those infected. However, the disease does not spread person to person. Rather large community outbreaks are caused through contaminated airborne water droplets, which can form in HVAC systems, gym showerheads, cooling towers, water taps, pools and water fountains.

The bacteria thrives in warm environments, feeding on pipework sludge and sediment. The Center for Disease Control states that intermittent use of buildings and equipment, paired with the interruption of regular cleaning regimens, increase the likelihood of water stagnation and in-turn the likelihood of a Legionella outbreak.

According the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, effective water management programs in buildings, facilities and plants will eliminate any public threat to a Legionella outbreak.

Legionella bacteria thrive at temperatures between 68- and 122-degrees Fahrenheit. Building controls play an important role in preventing this bacterial spread by setting water temperature outside of the range where the bacteria thrives.

A building is more likely to be safely reopened if the following measures are implemented:

Water Systems:

  • Routinely purge stagnant lines. Stagnant water is conducive to Legionella growth and prevents the biocide from circulating throughout the system
  • Consider contacting your local water utility to learn about any recent disruptions in the water supply. This could include working with the local water utility to ensure that standard checkpoints near the building or at the meter to the building have recently been checked. Request that disinfectant residual entering the building meets expected standards.
  • Check water temperature and increase to above 150.8 degrees Farhenheit, if below thresholds (in addition the thermostatic mixing valve before the tap should reduce temperature to 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding)
  • Check water treatment chemical levels and chemical pumps daily. Legionella levels can skyrocket in a short time if a biocide drum is empty or a chemical pump is broken
  • Control the buildup of dirt and debris. Clean basins and sumps as needed and the entire system twice a year. The cleaning alone has little effect on Legionella concentrations, but it is crucial for effective water treatment
  • Implement a chemical or thermal disinfection of the water system
  • Take microbiological samples for Legionella bacteria prior to re-opening
  • Clean all decorative water features, such as fountains. Be sure to follow any recommended manufacturer guidelines for cleaning and that decorative water features are free of visible slime or biofilm
  • Ensure safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems, eye wash stations, and safety showers are clean and well-maintained

HVAC & Cooling Systems:

  • Treat cooling water for control of Legionella and other microbes. If the tower appears well-maintained, perform an online disinfection procedure
  • Follow ASHRAE Guideline 12-2000 regarding cooling tower shutdown and startup for Building Water Systems =
  • Install and maintain high efficiency drift eliminators to minimize the mist that escapes the tower
  • Consider side stream filtration to reduce suspended solids and the demand on the biocide further. For most systems, filtering at 3% to 5% of the circulated water to 20 to 50 microns is sufficient
  • For most cooling towers, daily checks to test for pH, total dissolved solids, and disinfectant levels (if applicable), in addition to total bacteria counts (TBC) or Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) at least once a week to evaluate the water treatment—a significant rise indicates a problem.

Stark Tech Group is prepared to help with strategic plans for reopening buildings, including preparing the building to prevent a Legionella outbreak. Together, with the appropriate measures in place, occupants can feel safe to return to work. Stark’s Building Health and Wellness Program is available to address health and wellness concerns on a continual basis to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors.

For more information, visit starktechgroup.com or call 716.693.4490. Stay healthy. Stay safe. 

Council OKs Energy Efficiency Upgrades

The new chiller being proposed to be installed is one of the most energy efficient on the market today. He said the new boilers being proposed are much more energy efficient that the current setup, which is the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities district heating system. – Todd Hanson, Stark Tech Group

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As Building Infrastructures Age, Up-to-date Assessments Can Ensure High Performance and Resilience

Changes to a building that occur over time can often make building performance less efficient and less resilient. As time goes on, building use characteristics often diverge from those that were used initially to design and commission a building. A good example of this is improper outside air ventilation rates which can lead to problems with indoor air quality (IAQ), or excess operational costs. Building power and cooling infrastructure components can also wear out and fall out of calibration. As more and more powered equipment gets added, power capacities are exceeded, and unanticipated downtime issues begin to emerge.

As systems age, they decline in performance, which leads to failures that significantly impact the bottom line. We partner with our customers to implement solutions that keep systems operational by thinking strategically about proactive measures and how those actions impact the business over time.

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At Stark Tech Group, we work as a Schneider Electric EcoXpert™ Partner with expertise in their EcoStruxure™ Building architecture and building automation. Our engineers encounter many situations where building owners need help improving existing building performance.

A perfect example is a research facility that examines proteins and crystals in their research of bacteria and virus-borne diseases. The facility recently decided to upgrade its installed base of microscopes in response to pharmaceutical customer demand for more accuracy. Their existing building power infrastructure supported a 1-megawatt (MW) power switch, which was previously adequate as the building consumed 600 kW of power on an average day, and nosed up to 800 KW on the hottest of summer days when air conditioning systems work at full capacity.

Given the required upgrade, a cost effective, steady power supply with peaks in excess of 1MW was now required in order to accommodate stringent purity requirements and to avoid losing both data and research samples.

Our solution was to implement a lithium-ion-based energy storage solution physically located inside of the building. The battery selected for this purpose supplies stored power to the facility when demand spikes over 1MW and then recharges from the grid. This cost-effective change to the lab’s existing power infrastructure successfully managed the building’s increased power capacity requirements and helped the research lab remain competitive in their market.

Approaches for validating current building requirements

For organizations seeking to ensure consistent building power, cooling, and building automation performance, here are some preliminary steps that should be taken to validate requirements:

  • Identify common needs of both traditional and new critical infrastructure – Building owners need to periodically assess the health of different types of building critical infrastructure. This includes both generators and power distribution systems and the IT backbone – anything that keeps the building on its mission at a predictable operating cost. These infrastructure pillars need to be assessed in order to determine whether changes to the building have altered the efficiencies.
  • Identify needs unique to your facility – Understanding the unique requirements of the building under management also heavily impacts how technology is deployed to improve performance. Sports arenas, for instance, have a specialized need for higher dehumidification. High precision temperature control and monitoring are needed to both accommodate tens of thousands of fans and to assure that ice rink temperatures, for example, are properly maintained.

Healthcare facilities require more highly regulated environments. Circulating air has to be regularly monitored. Sophisticated backup power systems are required since connected hospitals have no real ability to shut down. In government and municipal buildings–such as prisons and K-12 public schools–a higher focus on safety and security emerges as a primary concern. Commercial buildings are focused more on comfort and lighting so that employee productivity can be maintained. Knowing the unique characteristics of your building and applying the right building automation technologies suited to those unique needs is a key performance driver.

Changing times demand more building resilience

Regardless of the type of facility, building owners also need to be aware that building resilience is emerging as a growing need. For many years, predictable building performance was taken for granted by the occupants. But now, the existing power grid has grown older. As power sources such as coal and nuclear phase out in the US, new solar and wind power are being introduced. These changes make power quality more intermittent and downtime can now occur in areas where power fluctuations were once rare. In addition, pockets of businesses continue to expand across regions driving more demand for clean, “always on” power. In these cases, building infrastructures need to be reexamined in order to withstand the demands of the “new normal.”

To learn more about how digitized building automation solutions can improve building performance, visit the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure for Buildings web site.

Want to see how Stark Tech Group, a Schneider Electric EcoXpert, is helping to drive energy efficiency in buildings? Read more here.

Exploring Ways to Bring B/C Buildings into A-Class Opportunities

Class B and Class C buildings may have been resistant to making investments or operational changes to their properties due to limited working capital and resources. However, according to the BOMA report, the market for Class B/C Buildings is changing. Tenant preferences, demand for new energy efficient technologies, and mandated policies to reduce building emissions are forcing building owners to look at options to stay competitive and in compliance. The market demands more, and energy efficiency is only part of the solution.

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