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Hospital kitchen among green changes

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan
Manager of Engineering Greg Oles discusses changes to the kitchen hood.

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Manager of Engineering Greg Oles discusses changes to the kitchen hood. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — This August, a trailer will temporarily take the place of the kitchen at Baystate Franklin Medical Center as the Greenfield hospital moves toward decreasing its energy footprint.

For a total $450,000, the hospital is replacing its kitchen hood — the equipment piece above the grills that takes cooking smoke and exhausts it outside — and updating its kitchen equipment

The kitchen hood replacement is part of a series of steps the hospital has taken to make itself more energy efficient, cut costs and preemptively replace aging equipment.

“We want to reduce our energy consumption because it affects our overall bottom line. The fewer expenses we have, the more we can put toward patient care,” said Greg Oles, manager of engineering at the hospital.

While many of the projects were undertaken to replace old equipment, the hospital took the opportunity to upgrade the systems using energy-efficient equipment.

Among the most recent changes is switching to LED lights and natural gas.

The changes coincide with the hospital’s plans to use green technology in the planned new operating rooms.

The hospital is replacing the kitchen hood, which can be susceptible to fires, before it becomes a problem.

The roughly 50-year-old kitchen hood has almost reached its life span. The temporary kitchen trailer will be located outside the entrance to the hospital cafeteria by Sanderson Street until mid-October as the project is underway. The kitchen will be closed during the project.

Meals will continue to be provided to patients and there will be no interruptions for food, Oles said. Meals will be brought into the existing kitchen, where it will be prepped in a cordoned-off clean area. Temporary walls will be put in place to separate the prep area of the kitchen from where construction work will be done.

“The patient will not see anything different,” Oles said.

The hospital is working with the Greenfield Fire Department, Board of Health and Building Inspector offices. The hospital is continuing to follow rules and regulations regarding food preparation, Oles said.

The replacement system will be more energy efficient. It will have its own air makeup system, which can save on heating costs. As the existing system exhausts air, it takes warm air from the building. In contrast, the new system will have a mechanism by taking and exhausting tempered air from the kitchen hood and not from the building. It will result in less heat loss.

Oles does not know what the cost savings will be yet. He met with Western Massachusetts Electric Co. officials this week to determine cost savings and equipment rebates.

Aging kitchen equipment, from the gas-fired grills to the steam kettles and ovens, will also be replaced at the same time with higher efficiency equipment.

The hospital is also in the process of converting 400 fluorescent light bulbs to LED lights. Rather than change the bulbs every two years, the new bulbs will be changed every 20 years, freeing up the facilities staff to do other work.

The new lights will reduce energy costs and the cost associated with the disposal of fluorescent lights, helping to reduce the hospital’s waste footprint.

In addition, the hospital has already switched its boiler systems from oil to natural gas. Like the hood, the oil tanks had reached its age.

“We didn’t want to wait until the end of its life and find an underground leakage from a storage tank,” Oles said. “We try to be as proactive as we can and make sure we use the equipment optimally.”

The hospital installed two new underground tanks, one for the boilers and one for emergency generators. While the old 1,000-gallon tank could run for 24 hours without refilling, the new 7,000-gallon gas tank can run four to five days. The hospital’s system is designed to not stop running heat and electricity even in storms where the rest of town is in the dark.

The hospital continues to have oil as a backup, but it relies mainly on natural gas for heating.

While the project cost $200,000, the hospital has now seen a payback in a 40 percent reduction in operating costs.

As a result, the heating bill dropped from $750,000 annually to $425,000.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: mckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268 O n Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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