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ENERGY EFFICIENCY: The COVID-19 crisis has affected us a lot but it has also provided us with new opportunities. Interview with David González from the HOSPITAL SUDOE 4.0 project

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This month, we had the opportunity to speak with David González, ITCL's energy efficiency and sustainability project manager, to discover in more details the HOSPITAL SUDOE 4.0 project focused on achieving greater energy efficiency in hospitals from southwestern Europe.

• What is HOSPITAL SUDOE 4.0 about?

HOSPITAL SUDOE 4.0 focuses on improving energy efficiency policies in public buildings and homes in southwestern Europe, although it is a project adaptable to the entire European territory. We work to achieve intelligent energy management, based on networks of knowledge and joint experimentation. Additionally, we promote the use of renewables in public infrastructures and develop specific improvement strategies based on demonstration buildings that allow us to assess the real impact of these measures. Thanks to that we get closer to near zero energy buildings and contribute to the European objective of a low carbon economy. As the name of the project indicates, we focus on hospital infrastructures, but the process can be applied to any type of building.

• When we talk about energy consumption in hospital structures, what figures are we talking about?

In extrapolated terms, focusing on the regions where our pilot hospitals are located, being Extremadura (ES), Nouvelle Aquitaine (FR) and Centro (PT), we are talking, approximately, of about 9 million MWh / year in energy and 55 million m3 / year of water.

• To get a more concrete idea, what would be the consumption figures for an house?

Well, according to the OCU, the energy consumption of a flat is around 9922 KWh / year (that is, almost 10 MWh / year) on average, of which most of it goes for heating.

• You talk about smart management strategy: what kind of services / instruments does HOSPITAL SUDOE offer?

The project makes two services available: a smart energy management platform and a building renovation passport.

The platform is a digital tool that is directly connected to the building and that serves as an intelligent management instrument for energy, water, air quality, self-production of energy and the thermal envelope. We measure the values ​​of the building using real data that we obtain through sensors. This allows us to make comparisons and create an alert system. For example, if a heating consumption is detected as being too high, thanks to the monitoring it is possible to know the cause and anticipate corrective actions, notifying the building manager so that he knows that he is incurring an overconsumption. In other words, this platform allows to generate notices for the daily management of the building.

The passport, as for it, collects personalized adaptation and rehabilitation strategies created from the platform. Thanks to the platform, we generate a digital twin of the building and see which strategy would allow better management or greater savings.


• Could any hospital opt for this personalized monitoring and strategy design?

Yes of course; everything is applicable to any building. Simply, actual data is required. If the building is new and everything is monitored, the implementation is very fast, but if the building is older and does not count on real-time monitoring, then equipment will have to be installed. However, you can always opt for theoretical predictions, without real data.

• How do you perceive the interest of other hospitals and / or the administration?

We have seen that there is interest as several entities have contacted us, some dedicated to the maintenance of hospitals and others to architecture and efficient construction. As for the Administration, for the moment, we have not had contact as it is planned for a little later in the project.

• For the development of the project, you have pilot hospitals: how did you select the hospitals?

For the selection, we have contacted management bodies taking into account several criteria. The main criterion was that they were in different climatic zones. We have a hospital in Badajoz where they have a temperate Mediterranean climate, a hospital in Nouvelle Aquitaine which is a more coastal area, and a hospital in Portugal, with a more Atlantic climate. We also paid attention to the fact that there were public and private hospitals and that they had different antiques and configurations.

• Now with COVID-19, we are facing a very strong hospital occupation: to what extent has the health crisis affected the energy efficiency of hospitals? How has it affected the approach of your project?



The crisis has hit us squarely, although it has also given us new opportunities. The project began in October 2019 and just 6 months later, the crisis began, paralyzing all actions in the field, data capture, installation of sensors, interviews ... We had no choice but to adapt and focus on others tasks since we could not install measuring equipment in hospitals.

Now it is difficult for us to know precisely how all this is affecting energy efficiency. But once everything calms down, we are planning to study it because many hospitals, due to this crisis, had to change their configuration. This will allow us to measure the impact of this type of event in hospitals, see what has happened and how to return to normality.


• When talking about energy efficiency, we are also talking about consumer awareness. How is this issue perceived in hospitals?

There is a lot of work to do because a hospital has many types of users, from the patient to the workforce, their uses are different and it is difficult to measure and standardize comfort. In this sense, we have surveyed patients, visitors and workers and the feeling of comfort varies a lot from one to the other. Furthermore, there is no established culture of efficient energy management. Maintenance personnel are generally not in the area of ​​use and users' priorities are usually different, focused on health and care. On the other hand, the higher consumption in hospitals is usually linked to the thermal aspect, which is more difficult to control individually.

• Finally, what has Interreg Sudoe given to you?

Well, being focused on  Southwester Europe, we find entities and / or situations that share common problems. Hospital services and weather are similar and by working with nearby areas, we better master territorial policies and systems, which allowed us to start from a more advanced point within the project, making the start-up faster-