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New lighting system cheaper, easy on the eyes

by: Submitted photo, 
Mark Sorensen, director of facilities management for Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City, left, assists John Waldrupe of the hospital’s plant operations department in upgrading some of the facility’s lighting.

OREGON CITY - Mark Sorensen isn't a doctor, but he's helping patients feel better and medical staff operate more effectively. As director of facilities management for Willamette Falls Hospital, Oregon City, Sorensen recently completed a project to install high-efficiency lights throughout the 143-bed hospital.

The new lighting systems are increasing patient satisfaction and employee morale, thanks to brighter and more balanced light levels, he said. Hospital administrators are pleased with the $16,000 annual energy savings, as well as the non-energy benefits of the new system.

'The lighting upgrade is part of an ongoing program to create and maintain Willamette Falls as a high- performance hospital,' said Sorensen. 'We're working with the BetterBricks program through Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Building Performance Services and Energy Trust of Oregon to identify the best opportunities for energy management here.'

In addition, the hospital is applying for Business Energy Tax Credits through the Oregon Department of Energy to further offset the initial investment for their energy upgrades. The contractor for the project was Earth Savings Energy Services of Oregon in Portland.

Sorensen has been interested in improving energy performance in hospitals for many years, but it wasn't until he joined Willamette Falls Hospital, a nonprofit hospital, that he found administrators willing to listen to how an energy management system could control energy costs and improve hospital operations.

'Once I learned how to present the benefits of the energy management projects in terms that were meaningful to our executives, it wasn't hard to sell them on a comprehensive program,' said Sorensen. The upgraded lighting system will save an estimated 257,443 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, enough electricity to power nearly 23 average Oregon homes. Energy Trust provided an $11,726 incentive for the project through the Business Energy Solutions program.

Sorensen expects to recoup the $49,575 project cost through energy savings in just 1.2 years, after Energy Trust incentives and tax credits.

'The new lights are boosting morale, are easier on the eyes and just make everything look brighter and cleaner,' said Sorensen. 'There are many windowless areas in the hospital, and the color balance creates a light more like natural daylight.'

Sorensen is already working on his next energy project, which will be a high performance heating ventilating and air conditioning system.

'Our energy guideline is a living document. We'll keep doing projects as long as they make sense,' said Sorensen. 'We have a great partnership in place to help us better manage the hospital's energy use.'

Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing how Oregonians use energy by promoting energy efficiency and clean renewable energy for Oregon customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas.