Date: 5/6/2002

St. Catherine Hospital updates system to improve building’s cooling efficiency

Community Healthcare System will invest $5.9 million to improve St. Catherine Hospital’s air conditioning and water cooling units to maximize efficiency, save money and contribute to a cleaner environment by using a different type of refrigerant.

Phase I of the plan will begin next week with demolition of some existing structures to make room for the new system. Phase II will follow, involving placing of pipes and other equipment into the existing building. This marks the second major improvement initiative at St. Catherine since the hospital was acquired by Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc., in October. The first project was the construction of the new Rehabilitation Center at St. Catherine, which opened in December.

“The goal of this project is to improve redundancy and maximize energy efficiency,” said JoAnn Birdzell, Administrator of St. Catherine Hospital. “Ultimately, with a system that works better and cools the building reliably and more evenly, we will have more comfortable rooms, patients and employees.”

The plan calls for removing four water chillers that are between 16 and 30 years old, and replacing them with newer, more efficient machines that are less prone to failure. Two other existing chillers that are newer will be retained and become part of an integrated system that feeds into a new central chiller plant.

Birdzell said the changes are needed simply to address issues that happen with older buildings. St. Catherine Hospital was built in several stages between 1928 and 1997. With the old system, if a chiller failed, none of the other machines could make up the difference, leaving some areas of the building uncooled. In addition, all of the older chillers would have to be operated at minimum load to cool the building, which is a less economical solution that running one central system at a higher load. Finally, some of the older chillers contain a type of refrigerant that is no longer manufactured and is less environmentally friendly if accidentally released.

The new system, Birdzell says, will address all of these issues, and create space for any additional changes that may be required in the future.