Can Green and Lean Help Your O&P Facility?

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By Miki Fairley

Green strategies and lean principles enable your O&P facility to provide a healthier, more cheerful, and safer environment for your patients and employees while helping our planet. Plus, these initiatives may reduce operating costs to create a "greener" bottom line. Jill Petkash, RTPO, University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center (UMOPC), Ann Arbor, offers some easy green ideas that almost any O&P fabrication lab can implement:

  • Offer mixed-waste recycling bins for paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.
  • Offer scrap bins for metal cuttings.
  • Donate scrap plastic and foam to "Scrap Box" (a local community resource) or other similar resource.
  • Set computers to automatically shut down at night and restart in the morning.
  • Install auto-shutoff switches for lights in some rooms.
  • Track work to eliminate redos.
  • Carve TLSO models into smaller models (i.e., reuse).

Whole-Building Design

If you are building a new facility or remodeling your current one, you might consider how the whole-building design concept can help you. As the Boulder County, Colorado, website explains, "Whole-building design takes an integrative approach to building design so that all elements of the building help achieve an optimal energy performance. The building has to interact effectively with the outdoor environment-a concept known as climate-responsive architecture (www.bouldercounty.org/env/sustainability/pages/efficiencybuildings.aspx)." For instance, landscaping can create natural cooling through the strategic placement of trees and bushes.

The National Institute of Building Sciences Whole Building Design Guide program provides a plethora of ideas (www.wbdg.org/design/minimize_consumption.php), including:

  • Reduce heating, cooling, and lighting loads through climate-responsive design and conservation practices.
  • Employ renewable energy sources such as daylighting, passive solar heating, photovoltaics, geothermal, and groundwater cooling.
  • Specify efficient HVAC and lighting systems that consider part-load conditions and utility interface requirements.
  • Optimize building performance by employing energy modeling programs, and optimize system control strategies by using occupancy sensors, CO2 sensors, and other air quality alarms.
  • Monitor project performance through a policy of commissioning, metering, annual reporting, and periodic recommissioning.
  • Integrate water-saving technologies to reduce the energy burden of providing potable water.

"Apply this process to the reuse, renovation, or repair of existing buildings as well," the Institute urges.

Another useful reference is Putting Energy into Profits: Energy Star® Guide for Small Business (www.energystar.gov).

In some cases, the cost of energy and water conservation equipment and systems has declined. For instance, Frank Ikerd, CPO, owner of Advanced Orthotics & Prosthetics, Joplin, Missouri, notes that the cost of solar energy has decreased while the technology has advanced, increasing efficiency and cost effectiveness. Ikerd, who rebuilt his facility after it and much of the city were destroyed during a catastrophic tornado, intends to install solar power pending a favorable outcome of an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court challenging the Empire District Electric Company's exemption from offering rebates to its customers for installing solar electric systems.

Government entities at the federal, state, and even county and municipal level and utility companies may offer benefits for implementing energy and water conservation systems and equipment, such as tax benefits, rebates, and other incentives. Below are some helpful resources to begin your search:

-Miki Fairley