University leaders co-create decarbonization guide for New York hospitals

Over the past year, staff from Energy Services and Sustainability (ESS) joined peers and industry leaders from across New York State to establish Decarbonize with Resilience: A Guide for New York Hospitals. This guide provides a roadmap for hospital and healthcare-related buildings to reduce carbon emissions and meet state and federal mandates while also creating operational best practices for the benefit of patients, employees, stakeholders, and the larger community.

In 2023, Mike Whitmore, executive director of ESS, and Rachel Stuckey, assistant director of building commissioning & standards, ESS participated in the New York Healthcare Protocol, a public/private collaboration led by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Whitmore and Stuckey joined leaders from over 80 organizations to create the primary resource for New York State hospitals to decrease their carbon emissions called Decarbonize with Resilience: A Guide for New York Hospitals.

This resource provides assistance and technical guidance to hospitals working to meet goals detailed in New York State’s Climate and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), also known as The Climate Act. Passed in 2019, the Act mandates that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in New York State are reduced to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Decarbonization challenges

While the University of Rochester is not currently mandated to reduce their carbon emissions, there are voluntary steps being taken. However, Stuckey shared that we face some barriers, including age of equipment, overall costs, and the fact that URMC is routinely over capacity, making it challenging to shut down any section of the hospital for renovations.

Current projects

ESS conducted their yearlong Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) pilot project in 2023, where they saved the University over $130,000 and reduced carbon emissions by 769 tons. ESS is pursuing funding to expand FDD at the University and add new buildings to the software, with the Kornberg Medical Research Building at URMC being their leading candidate. Overall, ESS anticipates that as more buildings are added to the FDD software they will save over 7,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next three years.

Another effective strategy toward carbon reduction is commissioning which is a process to verify and that test building systems for optimal performance and alignment with owner and occupant needs. Commissioning of buildings helps ensure they are energy efficient and the process can be applied to both new and existing buildings. Retro-commissioning, used to optimize existing building systems, typically produces significant energy savings, making it a great tool for URMC to take relatively simple action, compared to more intense capital projects involving equipment replacement.


Written by Sarah Woodams, 2024(T5)

Image provided by New York Healthcare Decarbonization Guide