Grizzlies, mountains, and sustainability! Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society (CHES) annual conference, hosted in beautiful Vancouver. The theme of this years conference was sustainability in healthcare. This theme refers to both systemic sustainability and environmental sustainability, with the goal to preserve health care services as well as the natural environment so that you’ll be able to get a timely appointment for your tennis elbow injury suffered during a round of frisbee golf and so that grizzlies can continue to survive in their natural habitat.

UHN had great representation at the conference, with delegates from Facilities, Infrastructure, IPAC, and Energy and Environment. Conferences are an excellent place to learn and share stories with colleagues, and I was happy to spread the sustainability message that Talkin’ Trash supports, discussing our many successes including LED lighting, chiller replacement, facility planning, water savings, VFDs, building automation, and more!

Some of the key takeaways from the learning sessions are the following:

Healthcare Sustainability: Designing for Wellness

Keynote speaker Tony Dagnone was very blunt about some of the long term sustainability issues we are facing with single payer provided healthcare in Canada. His discussion centered on his core pillars of a sustainable healthcare system:

  • accountability for results
  • appropriateness of care
  • value for public investment
  • fair and timely access to healthcare

These pillars can be approached in many ways, including through community integration and design for wellness/prevention. During his speech, Tony mentioned that hospitals are often one of the largest employers and raw physical footprints within a community and have the power to spread sustainable culture in the process of development. UHN takes a keen interest in community involvement with major and minor projects and this speech was a good reminder that we are a steward of the community.

Sunnybrook Emergency Generator Case Study

Speakers Mike McRitchie (Sunnybrook) and Philip Chow (HH Angus) discussed the successful generator upgrade project developed and completed over the last several years at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The key focus of the presentation was on identification of risk in building systems, thoughtful long term planning, and the complex phased construction approach necessitated by the criticality of the system. Mike discussed the stressful experience at Sunnybrook during the Toronto ice storm of 2013, highlighting the importance of having robust critical hospital infrastructure in times of disaster. He and Phil identified numerous design and commissioning best practices that can be applied to future emergency generator replacement projects at UHN.

Hybrid Lean Process for Hospital Design

Dallas Huard, of aodbt Architecture, presented a hybrid approach to applying the principles of lean design to hospital and clinic design. His lean methodology is centered around a concentrated on week focus group process involving all key stakeholders and user groups. In the early phases of the week seven unique designs are produced, known as “7 ways,” followed by an elimination process that involves small and full scale mock-ups. The week-long process whittles down the design options to the best possible option based on the inputs from all of the user groups.

The goal of the hybrid process is the shorten the design period and provide a forum where users have a chance to focus solely on the design and usability of the space.


There were numerous other sessions and side discussions to follow up on, including LED harmonics questions, metering for diagnostic imaging equipment, building automation and fault detection, construction and design guideline development, and many different building code clarifications. So lots of work to do before CHES 2017 in Niagara Falls. Aside from some interesting walks through the Downtown East Side where we accidentally booked our Airbnb, CHES 2016 was a great experience and I’ll definitely miss Vancouver.