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Delivering the UK’s First Carbon-neutral Community Hospital

In September 2021, Rye, Winchelsea & District Memorial Hospital embarked on a journey to become a carbon-neutral community hospital. The project was commissioned by the Rye Winchelsea & District Memorial Hospital charity with the goal of reducing demand, curbing emissions and limiting global warming. Here, Steve McGregor, Group Managing Director of DMA Group, takes up the story.

DMA Group

Delivering medical care closer to home has been the driving mission statement for the hospital, benefitting the local community and doing their bit for the environment along the way. Through its elimination of fossil fuels (i.e. gas), renewable electricity supply and the installation of new renewable systems, in 2023 the facility became the UK’s first community hospital to achieve carbon neutrality and reducing its carbon footprint by 100%.

This large-scale project also included some important, yet basic, enabling works, which included a full clean of the hospital’s heating system and the replacement of all radiator valves to optimise the heating system efficiency. The hospital also replaced its existing gas boilers with new electric flow boilers and calorifiers, and replaced all its gas-fired kitchen equipment, thereby eliminating the use of gas completely. New automated controls and the installation of internal and external LED lighting reduced and optimised demand ahead of the installation of new solar roof panels and storage batteries that generate more than 70,000 kilowatt hours electricity per annum.

The hospital’s in-house facilities management team can now monitor energy usage in real time via a smart new Building Management System (BMS) so that energy utilisation data is available to every stakeholder. This means that through onsite and live remote monitoring, any potential equipment, energy utilisation or building and water temperature issues can be proactively identified before it becomes a problem. This ensures a better environment for patients and staff and minimises any disruption to the vital care and work happening within the facility.

Turning to the data, it is now estimated that by the end of 2024 the overall energy consumption at the hospital will be reduced by approximately 240,000 kilowatt hours – a drop of 40% from previous years. The outcome being an impressive reduction of approximately 260 tonnes of carbon per annum, that being equivalent to planting around 4300 trees.

Speaking with Barry Nealon, the Chair at Rye, Winchelsea & District Memorial Hospital, it was clear that their overarching goal was always to become a fully-functional, net-zero community hospital, but having done it so quickly, and to be the UK’s first, was beyond expectations. Their mission was always to bring medical services closer to home for the benefit of that local community and to achieve this, they understood the need to reimagine their existing business models and aim for sustainable growth. Bringing DMA Group into that partnership allowed the hospital to help facilitate that by curbing emissions and limiting its impact on global warming.

Former Chief Operating Officer (and now Trustee), Martyn Phillips, led on the project and worked very closely with DMA throughout. Together, we ensured that the best possible decarbonisation plan was implemented alongside the replacement of life-expired plant and equipment that ensured the hospital infrastructure will function efficiently and effectively for at least the next 20 years.

Further to the decarbonisation effort, further modernisation and workplace improvements were made for staff and patients alike. Some of these included the installation of solar blinds in the nurses’ station to reduce glare and excess heat to create a more comfortable working environment, new air-conditioning units in the communications and medicine rooms to reduce the risk of equipment failure and the overheating of medicines, new air-conditioning systems in the nurses’ station and improvements to the hospital’s cold-water systems. This included the installation of a chemical dosing system and cold-water booster to increase the water pressure and reduce the risk of bacterial infections, such as legionella.

Having been involved at the hospital in some way for over 30 years, we benefitted from a trusting, progressive and transparent relationship with stakeholders throughout the project to determine the right design, right solution and the right cost. This proactive and collaborative approach not only presented a tangible route to net zero, but also a sound business case.

We are incredibly proud to have supported Barry and his team to help them achieve a national first – becoming a fully-functional, net-zero community hospital. As has been the nature of this project in East Sussex, the net-zero journey is one of continuous evolution and refinement and, equally, one that will lead to a more responsible and financially-secure future.

Contact DMA Group

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