Sustainability Update June 17, 2010

Dear CUMC Community:

Several initiatives are under way related to energy management, energy conservation, and recycling at CUMC. This message is the second in a series of e-mail communiqués from Facilities Management intended to share information about these initiatives and provide you with an opportunity to offer your suggestions and assistance in advancing our efforts at the medical center.

In This Issue: Retro Commissioning

The term "retro commissioning" refers to the process of examining an existing building to ensure equipment and systems operate efficiently, effectively, and safely. The term is used when a building has never before been examined, or "commissioned." It not only optimizes how equipment and systems operate individually, but also how they work together.

The retro commissioning was completed this year in all commercial buildings at CUMC, and several systems were examined, including boilers/heating systems, steam distribution, heat exchangers, water heaters, chillers, chilled water distribution, air compressors, lab hoods and lighting systems, among several others.

Here are a few examples of changes we are beginning to implement based on the findings:

  • Optimizing the temperature set point for the heating and cooling seasons. This may also improve tenant comfort and reduce our heating and cooling energy requirements.

  • Repairing leaks in our mechanical equipment (steam pipes and air handling units, for example).

  • Utilizing free cooling, which refers to the case when the cooling requirement can be met solely by outdoor air, without having to start a mechanical chiller (this typically occurs in the fall and spring seasons).

  • Applying heat recovery: once steam has heated an area, the condensate returns in the form of hot water. The heat in this condensation can be extracted and used to preheat other air and water systems.

  • Automatically powering down vending machines when the surrounding area is vacant through the use of sensors.

From implementing these measures, we see the potential for significant energy and carbon savings. These projects will help CUMC see a carbon reduction of almost 2,500 tons, which is equivalent to approximately 590 cars removed from the road or 1,015 acres of trees planted. Although we will not see these results immediately, our hope is for a long-term change in our consumption across our building portfolio toward becoming more energy efficient. These changes are just the first steps in reducing CUMC's carbon footprint and the energy use in our buildings.

We welcome your feedback and participation in our energy initiatives. If you have suggestions or ideas, please feel free to contact me at

Stay tuned for upcoming energy updates from Facilities Management.


Amador Centeno

Vice President of Facilities

Columbia University Medical Center


Energy & Sustainability