Roadmap to Modernization: A Case Study of Mercy’s Energy Stewardship Program

In an era where responsible resource management is paramount, healthcare institutions are increasingly turning to innovative energy-saving programs to align their operations with core values. At the forefront of this movement is Mercy, an organization with a 196-year legacy of transforming communities’ health and wellness.

Mercy’s commitment to stewardship is deeply ingrained in its core values, emphasizing the responsible use of resources for both patient well-being and asset management. Their Energy Stewardship Program reflects this commitment, providing a comprehensive framework for responsible resource allocation and infrastructure renewal. The Energy Stewardship Program, a strategic partnership with Bernhard, showcases a roadmap to modernization that not only prioritizes sustainability but also exemplifies prudent financial management.

The Scale of Ambition: A Comprehensive Infrastructure Renewal

With an extensive healthcare portfolio spanning 47 hospital buildings, 190 clinic buildings, and 185 medical and physician offices, Mercy recognized the urgency of comprehensive infrastructure renewal. Partnering with Bernhard enabled the initiation of site surveys, data collection, and recommendations for improvement measures.

One of the program’s pivotal challenges was prioritizing scope within the budget. This involved selecting measures that not only maximized energy savings but also emphasized the upgrading of Building Automation Systems (BAS), ensuring long-term sustainability, as well as enhanced cybersecurity measures.

The BAS upgrade was a critical component, improving patient comfort, regulatory compliance, and long-term sustainability. Transitioning from pneumatic controls to Direct Digital Controls (DDC), upgrading legacy systems, and implementing improved graphics streamlined operations and problem detection.

The integration of utility metering and Monitoring-Based Commissioning programs allowed for real-time analysis, fault detection, and proactive issue resolution. This not only ensured the efficient functioning of systems but also laid the groundwork for a proactive infrastructure management strategy.

Financial Prudence: Strategic Allocation for Maximum Impact

Mercy crafted a robust financial pro forma for capital investment. The strategic allocation yielded a net operating savings projection of tens of millions of dollars over 20 years, boasting an impressive 11% internal rate of return on energy efficiency investments.

Mercy’s practice of dedicating funds for facility infrastructure projects at the start of each fiscal quarter ensured program sustainability. Separating the funding allocation of infrastructure projects from revenue-generating projects, such as MRI replacements, ensured continuous and reliable progress of the overall program goals. Tangible benefits, including substantial reductions in utility costs and the successful renewal of critical infrastructure, underscored the program’s long-term impact.

Collaboration with Bernhard: A Key Enabler of Success

The collaboration with Bernhard played a crucial role in the program’s success. With more than 100 years of energy and infrastructure project experience, Bernhard brought expertise and innovation to the table, aligning seamlessly with Mercy’s vision.

Mercy’s strategic plan extends beyond infrastructure renewal. By addressing social determinants of health, Mercy aims to enhance the overall well-being of communities, supporting the vision of stewardship in becoming a central component of people’s health in each community they serve.

Mercy’s Energy Stewardship Program, with its innovative methodology, financial prudence, and commitment to sustainability, stands as a model for health care institutions navigating the intersection of responsible resource management and patient well-being.

The Heat Is On: Bernhard’s Ongoing Quest to Find Decarbonization Heating Solutions for Cold-Climate Clients

Culture of Innovation

Innovation is at the core of what we do. In order to truly innovate, our engineers, researchers, and analysts are encouraged to break new ground and push the boundaries of science and engineering to find innovative, outside-the-box decarbonization solutions that will benefit our clients and economy for years to come.

By instilling this culture of out-of-the-box thinking without fear of “being wrong” our experts are free to explore any energy solution until they eventually find the perfect outcome for our clients. Where other firms may criticize an idea that doesn’t work, we applaud it because that means we are one step closer to finding a solution. This culture of unapologetic innovation is how Bernhard remains on the cutting edge of the Energy-as-a-Service industry.

The Heat is On

A major challenge faces Bernhard’s customers as they strive to phase out carbon-heavy gas systems in favor of more sustainable electricity. In cold climates, current technology forces them to use electric resistance heat which causes their energy use to skyrocket. To avoid this, our team has been seeking a practical alternative to electric resistance heat.

In a perfect world, a large hospital or university in Minnesota or Michigan could store heat from its rooftops all summer long, then utilize it to warm interior spaces the following winter. If possible, such an approach would substantially reduce the energy required to heat facilities in winter months.

Bernhard was asked to investigate just such a solution for a client in the Northwestern United States. This client is located in a city that experiences long, cold winters, with average January highs in the mid-20s and lows near or below zero. But notwithstanding the cold climate, this client has committed to net-zero carbon emissions within the next few years.


Facility owners wishing to eliminate natural gas heating are forced to consider electric heating options. You can heat a structure with electricity in the winter in one of two ways: generate heat with electric resistance (think of the glowing orange heating element inside a toaster) or you can scavenge heat from the environment and transfer it indoors using a refrigeration cycle.

Heat pumps are all-electric and use a refrigeration cycle. It’s complicated, but to summarize the process, a refrigerant cycle transfers heat from one location to another.

For example, a home air conditioning unit may pull air from a 75-degree room, cool it down, and blow 55-degree air back into the room. It has removed heat from the air, but where did the heat go? Refrigerant from the cooling coil absorbed heat and sent it through copper lines to the outdoor unit. There, a compressor squeezed the refrigerant to make it hot, and a fan blew across the hot refrigerant to cool it off. The system didn’t create hot air or cool air. It removed heat from one location and moved it to another. An air-conditioning system removes heat from indoor spaces and sends it outdoors.

A heat pump works the same way as an air conditioning system, the difference being that instead of cooling, by taking heat from indoors and transferring it outdoors; it heats, by taking heat from outdoors and transferring it indoors. For example: blowing 55-degree air across a cold outdoor coil heats up the refrigerant inside the coil. After being squeezed by the compressor, the refrigerant becomes hot enough to warm a house. A fan blows air across a coil with the refrigerant making the air warm enough to provide heating.

In short, rather than removing heat from indoors and dumping it outside like an air conditioning unit, a heat pump finds heat outdoors and dumps it indoors, heating the interior space.


Heat pumps are an important player in the decarbonization and energy reduction game because they are 3 to 5 times more efficient than electrical resistance heating. Using a heat pump to scavenge heat from the outdoors only requires 20-33% as much electricity as it does to generate the same amount of heat through electrical resistance.

If a nation wants to electrify buildings en masse to mitigate the impacts of climate change, heat pumps look like an obvious winner. But they have a very serious limitation – ordinary heat pumps can only “recruit” heat from outside air when the air is moderately warm. Conventional heat pumps begin losing their ability to collect heat efficiently from outside air at about 40 degrees. Thus, heat pumps are a favorite in the southern US, in warmer climates such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta.

But a huge portion of the United States has cold winters, with temperatures too low for heat pumps to recruit heat effectively. Some specialized systems can recruit heat at temperatures as low as -10 degrees, but these systems are small and expensive. Most larger commercial heat pumps become unable to heat as the ambient temperature falls.

To avoid being without heat on unusually frigid days, heat pump systems usually include a built-in electric resistance heater as a backup heat source. These resemble those glowing red toaster wires we mentioned earlier. The backup electric resistance heater cycles on when it’s cold to recruit heat from the outside air. Thus, electric-only customers are forced to use the most expensive, energy-intensive form of heating – paying 3 to 5 times the cost per unit of heating – at exactly the time of year when their heating needs are the greatest.

When large numbers of customers use electric heating in cold climates, it can stress the power grid. Bernhard evaluated the consequences of converting a city block’s worth of office and lab buildings from gas to electric resistance heat. The substations providing electricity to the entire city (population 50,000 – 75,000) totaled 22 Megawatts of capacity. Converting just one city block from gas to electric would have exceeded the grid’s limits and required the construction of a new 8-Megawatt substation. Imagine the electrical requirements of converting the entire city.


To find a solution, we explored a very ambitious idea: could we capture summer heat and store it until winter?

First, we needed to know how much heat would be required. According to our calculations, the amount of heating needed in storage exceeded the amount of heat removed from buildings during the summer by 3 to 7 times – depending on the building. So even if we could store all the heat summer extracted from buildings to keep them cool, we wouldn’t have nearly enough heat to meet the client’s winter heating requirements. We needed a way to collect more heat than a refrigerant cycle could scavenge from building interiors during the summer.

One good option is rooftop solar panels. Rather than using these panels to generate electricity, we would use solar energy to heat water by passing water through a network of black piping that’s exposed to the sun.

An even more effective way of capturing heat during summer months is using fans and coils, blowing hot summer air across water-filled coils. It’s a comparatively cheap system to install and captures 5-10 times as much heat per square foot as the aforementioned solar panels.

With a potential method for obtaining large amounts of heat during the summer, we needed only to store it until winter while not allowing the water to cool off. But where to store it? To keep a gallon or two of water hot for several months without a heating source would require an insulated vessel, like a Thermos bottle. To retain enough energy to heat a large building through the winter though, would require storing hundreds of millions of gallons of water.

The size of the underground storage tank required to store this much water was unfeasibly big. For example, just one building we were studying on the client’s campus would have required the construction of an underground, insulated storage tank 300x300x300 feet. Roughly one and a half football fields in area, and 30 stories deep.


Such a massive tank was clearly unrealistic. But could we reduce its size? Bernhard next explored Phase Change Materials (PCMs) as a way of reducing the required volume of the heat-storing solution. Phase change materials are able to store energy very efficiently. Ice is the most well-known example of a PCM. Adding an ice cube to your drink cools it much, much more effectively than adding the equivalent amount of cold water.

Ice could be an effective means of storing energy if we could find a large, commercial heat pump rated for temperatures below 32F, the freezing point of water. But at present, such technology is still early in development.

There are other PCMs that change phase at different temperatures, but they’re expensive. In exploring different materials, Bernhard engineers found a European company with a PCM that changes phase at 60F.

Such a material could drastically reduce the amount of space needed to store the required amount of heat. But when Bernhard told the supplier how much of the material we’d need for the project, they asked if we had possibly made a typo in our request – by a factor of 1,000. Buying enough of the 60F PCM to complete the project would have been outlandishly expensive.


Another possibility for decarbonized winter heat for our client takes us underground. The city where the client’s campus is located happens to be situated a few hundred feet directly above a vast underground aquifer that spans the width of the entire state.

The water in this aquifer is approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. At that temperature (20 degrees above the point where heat pumps can successfully scavenge heat), the aquifer could serve as a source of infinite, recruitable heat for every building on campus in winter and an infinite heat sink in summer.

This solution has actually been utilized already to heat a few buildings in Utah and other states with underground aquifers. It requires some capital investment but drilling holes for piping costs much less than building a new massive water storage tank for each building. There is even one building on our client’s campus that has been using heat pumps to draw heat from the aquifer for several years. It’s a promising strategy for decarbonized cold-climate heating.

However, this solution was deemed unworkable campus-wide for our client because of the long regulatory and oversight process that would have to have been required to make it happen while protecting the irreplaceable aquifer.


Despite ruling out storing immense volumes of water as impractical, Bernhard has not given up. We are now exploring other cost-effective ways of storing energy for winter consumption. An obvious option is to pair a solar array with batteries. But another possibility might be a solar-powered hydrogen generator. Hydrogen can be stored until needed for heat. Unlike fossil fuels, which create greenhouse gases when burned, hydrogen creates water. Other possibilities include capturing and storing methane from a nearby landfill and using it as fuel. Burning methane as fuel results in a huge reduction in carbon emissions compared to continuing to let it escape into the atmosphere.

Perhaps one of these will be the answer, or maybe another technology will emerge. For example, Oak Ridge National Labs is exploring technology that works similar to a catalytic converter, allowing natural gas to be burned, but with only a fraction of the emissions. Although not fully ‘net zero,’ such a technology might provide an interim solution until human ingenuity invents something better. It’s an exciting time to be in the energy industry, especially at a company like Bernhard which is at the intersection of implementation and cutting-edge technology.

Bernhard leaves no stone unturned or idea unconsidered when working to find solutions to the issues standing in the way of a client’s decarbonization goals.

So, what are the problems that are holding back your decarbonization goals? Whatever they are, the experts at Bernhard have the tools, technology, talent, and experience to work with you in finding a solution. Ready to learn more? Contact us today.

Transforming Healthcare Facilities: Sutter Health’s Eden Medical Center’s Success Story in Sustainable Energy Efficiency

In an era where environmental sustainability is paramount, healthcare facilities across the globe are embracing innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint while simultaneously achieving significant cost savings. Sutter Health’s Eden Medical Center (EMC) stands out as a shining example of a healthcare institution that has successfully executed a comprehensive turnkey energy efficiency project, resulting in substantial financial savings and a substantial reduction in its environmental impact.

EMC’s journey toward energy efficiency was characterized by strong engagement from facility staff, diligent execution, and a commitment to long-term sustainability. The hospital’s partnership with Bernhard, a leading energy solutions provider, yielded remarkable results. The results of this energy project highlight the comprehensive strategies employed, the measurable outcomes achieved, and the broader implications for the healthcare industry.

The Scope of EMC’s Energy Efficiency Project

EMC’s energy efficiency project was no small feat. It encompassed a range of measures, each contributing to the overall goal of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while optimizing operational efficiency. The project’s primary objectives included:

  1. Upgrading to Energy-Efficient LED Lighting: A facility-wide LED lighting upgrade played a pivotal role in reducing electricity consumption.
  2. Enhancing Central Chilled Water Plant Operations: Operational improvements to the central chilled water plant significantly contributed to electric savings and overall system efficiency.
  3. Implementing Temperature Reset Strategies: Innovative strategies at the air handling units minimized reheat in spaces and reduced unnecessary load on the chiller plant, resulting in natural gas savings.
  4. Terminal Box Temperature Range Standardization: Terminal boxes were programmed to maintain zone temperatures within standardized ranges, saving cooling and reheat energy and promoting uniformity in temperature control.
  5. Optimizing Pump VFDs: Savings were generated from power reductions achieved through variable frequency drives on pumps.
  6. Chilled Water dP Reset/Adjustments: Chilled water secondary pressure controls reset based on AHU’s valve position/demand, optimizing chiller plant equipment staging for efficient operation.
  7. Air Handler Optimization: AHUs operated with supply air temperature resets based on terminal unit demand, reducing reheat and chiller plant load.

The Tangible Benefits: Measured Energy Savings

The success of EMC’s energy efficiency project is not just anecdotal; it is backed by concrete data. The project resulted in impressive energy savings, demonstrating its impact at both the system level and the utility bill level:

  • Electric consumption decreased by 14%.
  • Natural gas consumption decreased by 24%.

A thorough verification process, including regression curve analysis, weather normalization, and monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) using SkySpark and Bernhard Analytics, confirmed these savings and is providing a deeper level of information to the building operators, improving their productivity in maintaining patient and staff comfort levels. The annual savings is $517,890, with a potential for even greater savings as utility rates escalate.

Sustainability Beyond Savings

EMC’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the immediate financial benefits. Their approach to energy efficiency includes ongoing monitoring and evaluation through the MBCx program. Engineers from Bernhard collaborate with Sutter Health’s Eden Medical Center staff, ensuring the achieved savings persist and identifying additional opportunities for improvement.


Sutter Health’s Eden Medical Center’s energy efficiency journey serves as a compelling case study for the healthcare industry. Their multifaceted approach, measurement and verification, and ongoing commitment to sustainability showcase what is possible when healthcare facilities prioritize both environmental responsibility and fiscal prudence.

As healthcare institutions worldwide seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint and operational costs, EMC’s story provides a roadmap for success. By embracing energy efficiency projects with a holistic and long-term perspective, hospitals can not only save substantial sums but also contribute significantly to a more sustainable future for all.

EMC’s journey reminds us that energy efficiency is not just about reducing expenses; it’s about building a healthier, more sustainable world for generations to come.

About the Author:

Jane Guyer is a Sr. Director of Account Management in Bernhard’s Engineering Division with more than 20 years of engineering experience including 13 years as an energy efficiency specialist. Jane specializes in enterprise-level energy management and technical project development for large clients, including hospitals, higher education, and manufacturing facilities. Account management is a primary focus for Jane. She excels at providing clients with detailed budget planning, staff management, and technical guidance that aligns with their sustainability or energy management goals. Jane has performed or led recommissioning and energy project implementation projects in numerous healthcare and resort/hotel/casino facilities totaling over 19 million square feet of conditioned space and saving Bernhard’s clients over $2 million on an annual basis. Many of the facilities have undergone multi-year recommissioning efforts, enabling deeper dive recommissioning projects with higher levels of savings, savings persistence, and more creative energy efficiency solutions. Jane was named one of the Top 30 Women to Watch by Utah Business in 2022.

Circles of Support: Bernhard Leans In Offers Employees a Chance to Network, Learn, Lead and Grow

Bernhard’s never-ending quest to create the leaders and can-do attitudes needed for another century of growth is a big part of why we’re excited about our latest culture initiative: Bernhard Leans In.

We believe a company should be more than just a place to earn a paycheck. Building an organization that’s ready for what’s next, driven by interconnected teams that come together to weather the storm requires creating not just a company, but a community. A network of opportunity, peer support, and a platform for personal and professional growth that gives every employee the tools, connections and confidence they need to be their best selves.

Built on a network of small discussion groups called “Lean In Circles” that can be created and led by any Bernhard employee, the program is focused on inspiring discussion, education and connection, backed by step-by-step guides to help Circle members get the most out of every meeting. Designed to help Bernhard employees connect through their unique backgrounds and interests, Lean In Circles are welcoming, supportive spaces to share experiences and tackle questions among peers. Circles are formed around a common thread, from the unique issues faced by minorities in leadership roles to the concerns of new parents balancing their work-life.

The goal of Bernhard Leans In is creating a community of connection that helps employees feel more empowered and ready to achieve their personal and professional ambitions.


Though Bernhard Leans In is open to all, Lean In was originally conceived and established as a global initiative dedicated to helping empower women in the workplace. Launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to coincide with the publication of her 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” the initiative was created to help women achieve their full potential by encouraging them to “lean in” to their goals without settling for less.

Studies have shown two-thirds of participants in Lean In Circles have taken on new challenges as a result of their involvement, while 73% feel equipped to be better leaders.

Created around traits like ethnicity, job title, or personal milestones like being a new parent or a young professional, these small discussion groups foster honest and open communication, help employees broaden their professional networks, encourage discussion with colleagues that participants might not otherwise interact with on a regular basis and build connections and collaboration.

Lean in Circles usually come together virtually for an hour each month to connect and discuss a specific topic. Meetings follow a standard agenda centered around education or connection activities from one of many step-by-step discussion guides available through the

Every Lean In Circle is unique. The participants decide the size of the group, how often it meets, what topics are discussed, activities and more. Ideally, the goal is for participants to leave their Lean In Circle meeting every month having learned new skills through peer mentorship and structured discussion.


There are currently 20 Circles in Bernhard’s Lean In network, with over 150 employees participating in discussions. Established by Bernhard’s Head of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Alyssa Jaksich and ESG Analyst Ashtyn Bell, the Bernhard Lean In network includes Circles for remote workers, women in management, African American employees, LGBT+ employees, deaf and hard of hearing employees, participants in Bernhard’s Young Professionals program, and more.


Participating in Bernhard Leans In offers numerous benefits for employees both personally and in their career:

  • COMMUNITY BUILDING: Ever wish you could find a supportive community in the workplace for your specific goals or lived experience? That’s what Lean In Circles are all about: connecting with colleagues who understand your ambitions, challenges, and experiences.
  • PEER MENTORSHIP: Bernhard Leans In gives employees the opportunity to learn from each other, fostering the culture of mutual growth and mentorship that has helped Bernhard excel since 1919.
  • FOSTERING LEADERSHIP: By participating in Lean In Circles, employees can improve a range of career-building, leadership-ready skills, from public speaking to leading crucial conversations.
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Being married to the grind is yesterday’s career strategy. Today’s plan: taking advantage of professional education and networking opportunities like Bernhard Leans In.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH: What qualities define personal wellness and growth? Confidence, resilience, being tactful but honest with others, especially about your concerns. Lean In Circle discussions help participants build these crucial skills.
  • DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: Diversity and inclusion are more than just words at Bernhard. By providing space for diverse groups to learn, discuss and engage in issues important to them, we’re honoring our commitment to real, meaningful inclusivity.
  • NETWORKING: Business is about who you know. How will someone you become acquainted with through a Lean In Circle today be able to help you in business or your career tomorrow?
  • EMPOWERMENT: It’s not called “Lean In” for nothing. By giving employees the ability to create communities and head up discussions, Bernhard Leans In empowers employees to follow their ambitions and take on leadership roles within their most authentic selves.

It’s our hope that the launch of Bernhard Leans In will help every team member feel more empowered to achieve their personal and professional goals while building new connections and creating a more united Bernhard.

About the Author:

Alyssa Jaksich is currently the Chief of Staff and Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at Bernhard where she develops, consolidates, operationalizes, and publicizes Bernhard’s ESG strategies and initiatives through coordination with multiple internal teams and business stakeholders, furthering Bernhard’s ongoing mission of promoting sustainability. She previously served as Bernhard’s Vice President of EaaS implementation where she led a team focused on increasing efficiencies within the solutions division at Bernhard, particularly related to Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) projects. She was a key driver in the development of Bernhard’s industry leading measurement and verification services, and was heavily involved in the development of numerous EaaS projects. Jaksich earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., double majoring in chemical physics and economics.

A Pledge for Tomorrow: What Signing the Health Sector Climate Pledge Means for Your Hospital

By: Diana Husmann, David Lamberson, Cami Lambert 

Climate change is no longer tomorrow’s threat. From record heat waves and flooding to life-threatening tornadoes and hurricanes, it is on our doorstep, creating devastation that takes a real toll on our communities.

Hospitals are not immune to these challenges. Relying on complex, interconnected infrastructure that’s often spread over dozens of acres, campus-based hospitals are uniquely vulnerable to high winds, flooding and power grid failures that are a hallmark of dangerous weather. Nevertheless, healthcare facilities must remain operational no matter what comes, both to protect current patients and help communities recover in the aftermath of extreme events.

Recognizing this, the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge on Earth Day 2022. Built around a three-step pledge that can help healthcare facilities reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect vital infrastructure from extreme weather, this voluntary commitment is an important step towards a more sustainable, less vulnerable future for healthcare in the United States.

Is your organization interested in signing the Health Sector Climate Pledge, but doesn’t know where to start on requirements like data collection, planning, monitoring and compliance? With a decades-long track record of helping hospitals reduce GHG emissions and harden their infrastructure against devastating weather events, Bernhard is uniquely positioned to help hospitals meet the goals of this important pledge.

Here’s how your organization can prepare to take the pledge.


Introduced by the White House and HHS in April 2022, the Health Sector Climate Pledge is a voluntary commitment to infrastructure resilience and emissions reduction by healthcare organizations in the U.S. There are three main commitments in the pledge:

  • Signees commit to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 (as compared to a baseline taken no earlier than 2008) and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Signees should also make public announcements of their progress toward these goals every year.
  • Signees commit to conduct an inventory of overall Scope 3 emissions by the end of 2024 and designate an employee at the executive level to spearhead progress on reducing emissions by the end of 2023.
  • By the end of 2023, signees commit to create and publicly release a Climate Resilience Plan for ensuring uninterrupted operation of critical services during extreme weather events. The plan should make an effort to anticipate the needs of groups in the local community that are particularly at risk of climate-related harm.

As of April 2023, 116 organizations representing 872 U.S. hospitals had signed the Health Sector Climate Pledge, including medical centers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies and more.

Demand to sign beyond the October 2022 deadline was so great that on March 9, HHS announced they would accept new signatories to the pledge indefinitely. Under the revised rules, organizations can sign the pledge at any time, and will be recognized in official announcements by HHS issued twice each year. Organizations that submit their pledge form by November 1, 2023, will be included in an announcement during the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Between public healthcare organizations and Federal health systems that have taken similar pledges, more than 1,100 private sector and government hospitals have joined the effort, representing more than 15% of hospitals in the United States.


While the three-step framework of the Health Sector Climate Pledge seems simple, anyone who has spent time in administration, maintenance or energy systems on a large campus understands what a lift it will be for many hospitals. Compliance requires complex monitoring, planning, resource allocation and reporting within a tight timeframe. It’s a big ask even for the most well-oiled organizations. There are, however, a few resources available that can help.

For example, if you’re interested in meeting the resilience planning requirements of the Health Sector Climate Pledge, the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit is particularly helpful.

Developed in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the toolkit includes materials and resources to help hospitals evaluate their systems and prepare for climate-related disasters.

For hospitals, one of the most important tools in the toolkit is the Steps to Resilience process.


The Steps to Resilience process is designed to help organizations recognize, identify and make plans to address climate change-related vulnerabilities and risks to critical operations. Once issues have been identified, the process helps stakeholders prioritize issues, evaluate solutions and identify opportunities for improvement.

Before beginning the Steps to Resilience process, you should assemble a planning team. It  can be helpful to appoint a specific team leader for each step of the process.


Look closely at your organization’s most critical assets: the people, infrastructure and services that are crucial to your hospital’s ability to continue caring for patients and saving lives.

Consider how those assets might be disrupted by weather-related events like tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding, but also attacks on the power grid, chemical spills on nearby highways or railways, earthquakes, etc.

Ideally, you’ll want to document potential impacts with an exposure matrix, and inventory spatial, quantitative and qualitative data for later review with your organization’s planning team.


Collect information on how frequently various disasters have occurred in your region in the past, then determine whether climate change is likely to increase the likelihood or severity of those events over time. Consider these risks carefully.

Once you’ve identified and categorized the risks, use assessment rules to create impact statements and synthesize your findings for the planning team.


This step is the opportunity to review and consider your team’s findings from steps 1 and 2, then use the insights you’ve gained to explore strategies to protect critical assets in a disaster.

Be sure to research products or outside solutions that might improve various vulnerabilities and reallocate existing resources or low-cost workarounds. Work to identify which options would be most acceptable to your community.


In this step, it’s up to your team to design and write an implementation plan for the strategies you’ve identified. Prioritize risks and potential solutions by their impact on the overall resilience of your facility and mission-critical services.

Evaluate both resource allocation and budgetary cost of implementing the strategies you’ve identified. Avoid groupthink by giving your team room to address any doubts or uncertainties they might have without judgment. Finally, write an implementation plan that includes short, medium and long-term goals and priorities.


Planning is one thing. Execution is another. Now that you have an implementation plan, it’s time to take action. Identify and seek opportunities for funding or financing your identified strategies, including private and federal decarbonization grants. Create a plan to monitor your organization’s progress and share what you’ve learned, constantly adapting your strategies to the challenges and successes you see.


Greenhouse gas reduction is a complicated, incremental puzzle, and nobody has a crystal ball that can see the next catastrophic weather event.

With headquarters on the Gulf Coast and decades in the Energy-as-a-Service industry, Bernhard has helped hospitals all over the United States inventory and reduce Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions and develop Climate Action Plans while strengthening critical infrastructure against the worst climate change can throw their way.

Reducing GHG emissions and protecting critical systems is what we do every day for dozens of clients. From Category 5 hurricanes to power blackouts, Bernhard knows how to help hospitals plan for and survive catastrophic events. We also understand how important setting and meeting actionable decarbonization goals can be to a large campus organization.

Our specialized decarbonization and infrastructure teams evaluate and find vulnerabilities others have missed, and turn infrastructure into resilient, closely monitored systems hospitals can trust when everything is on the line for their community.

It’s what we do. Bernhard is ready to help your large-campus hospital understand the Health Sector Climate Pledge, meet its requirements, and abide by its stipulations for years to come.

Using Monitoring-Based Commissioning to Meet Decarbonization Goals

Finding the right strategy to reach significant decarbonization goals is a complicated task for any organization. That’s especially true for large-campus facilities like hospitals and universities.

With monitoring-based commissioning and next-generation energy analytics platforms like Bernhard Connect®, campus-based facilities have the tools they need to plan for, set and reach important decarbonization targets. By utilizing this software, they can improve operational resiliency, reduce waste, head off issues before they develop into serious problems and realize sizable savings on annual energy spend.

What is monitoring-based commissioning?

Monitoring-based commissioning is a process by which a building’s energy use, efficiency and performance is continually monitored and analyzed using data from remote sensors. These sensors can be installed almost anywhere without major retrofitting, delivering real-time information on HVAC equipment, compressors, internal air temperatures, pumps, chillers, airflow and more.

At Bernhard, our MBCx programs leverage the power of Bernhard Connect®, cloud-based energy analytics platform. Built for automation, ease of use, and agility, Bernhard Connect® features customizable dashboards that can be tailored to prioritize areas of greatest concern or specific goals. It’s the cost-effective energy analytics solution many large-campus facilities have been looking for, allowing them to address their most pressing efficiency challenges and reach decarbonization goals.

By carefully studying this data, facility operators can identify opportunities for improvement, make small tweaks to optimize energy efficiency, prioritize maintenance and ensure that systems are operating as designed.

Utilizing next-generation, cloud-based analytics software, monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) can often be performed by a handful of employees, working either remotely or from a centralized monitoring center. With automatic fault detection and alerts, issues can be detected and sometimes even fixed or bypassed as they happen, helping keep systems working at optimal efficiency to maximize decarbonization efforts and protect mission-critical services. Collected and archived, the data also allows facilities to adjust their efforts, track progress and develop fact-driven, impactful strategies for operations and future maintenance.

Why choose analytics and MBCx for large-campus facilities?

There are a number of reasons why making progress toward decarbonization is easier for large campuses with MBCx and advanced analytics in place.

Campus-based facilities often include a collection of buildings of varying sizes and roles, built to a variety of construction and environmental standards during the past 50 years or more. These buildings may have different insulation ratings, antiquated windows, lighting, heating, cooling and air management systems, or rely on control systems and infrastructure that might be decades past the point of obsolescence. Many times, wasteful infrastructure is held together just well enough to keep it running, but far below peak efficiency. With so much to handle and parts for aging systems difficult or impossible to come by, large-campus facilities often have a long list of deferred maintenance items.

Because of these factors, it can be difficult to know where to start when trying to develop a meaningful decarbonization strategy and timeline for a large campus. Once the most obvious performance issues have been corrected, decarbonization is often a game of inches, finding efficiencies and slight performance discrepancies that eventually add up to meaningful progress, often during months or years.

By choosing MBCx and advanced energy analytics platforms like Bernhard Connect®, large-campus facility operators can see where improvement needs to be made and which decarbonization strategies would have the most impact. Allowing a small team to monitor potentially hundreds of complex performance indicators in multiple buildings at once, MBCx lets campuses focus their resources and make steady, meaningful progress over time as budgets and workforce allow, while mitigating performance drift that can bleed away decarbonization wins as quickly as they’re made.

In the short-term, O&M teams can see which buildings or deferred maintenance items are the highest hurdles for decarbonization goals, allowing them to prioritize those fixes that can realize the biggest improvements in the shortest amount of time. Long-term, MBCx and archival data allows teams to find hidden inefficiencies and equipment performance issues that might have been too subtle to easily notice before. Meanwhile, automatic, customizable fault detection allows monitoring teams to recognize and act on the warning signs that could indicate a major problem is brewing, even when tracking dozens or hundreds of performance indicators.

Take control and meet your goals

Flying blind on energy use and efficiency is a big part of why many large facilities see their energy costs and carbon footprint grow year after year, often putting even modest decarbonization goals out of reach. With MBCx and advanced analytics platforms like Bernhard Connect®, operators can access the archival data, remote management and real-time system information they need to make ambitious decarbonization goals a reality, usually while finding enough annual energy savings to make MBCx efforts pay for themselves and then some.

Think MBCx, energy analytics and Bernhard Connect® might be the right path for your large-campus decarbonization goals? Bernhard has been helping hospitals and universities decarbonize and find significant energy savings for more than two decades. Our team of experts is ready to put that experience to work for you. Learn more about our work or contact us today to get started.

Paving the Budgetary Roadmap to Full Decarbonization

For large-campus facilities, developing decarbonization goals is the easy part. The hard part begins when it comes time to formulate a roadmap that provides much-needed clarity on how to reach those goals.

More than 50% of major higher education institutions have publicly committed to carbon neutrality, but many haven’t yet identified how this goal will be reached or how the work will be funded. Most institutions and universities are struggling to overcome an overwhelming backlog of deferred maintenance while ensuring they can deliver a world-class educational experience. Sustainability goals are competing for the same time and resources.

Identifying a straightforward and cost-effective path to reach this environmental goal is the first barrier. Not only does this require input from a diverse team of engineers, contractors, and operations and maintenance staff, but it also must tell a story that enables leadership and financers to start putting these plans into action.

Assuming a goal has already been set and the institution’s environmental footprint and operational costs have already been benchmarked, a simple top-down budgetary carbon roadmap will help leaders understand what these sustainability commitments require and their best course of action.

It’s best to break down carbon neutrality into a few major categories: efficiency, technology, source, and offsets. Operational efficiency can swing widely, usually allowing for significant improvement in performance with the infrastructure already in place. Investment in better technologies is often needed to bring the level of efficiency into the highest range and, in some cases, shift the source of energy to something more strategic. After efficiency and technology upgrades have been taken as far as possible, any remaining energy must come from a clean and renewable source. Any remaining emissions that are outside of an owner’s control or are entirely cost-prohibitive to directly address must be offset.

Budgeting for efficiency and technology through energy benchmarks

Energy benchmarking has to take into account building function and location in order to understand whether measured performance is actually good or bad. ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager provides an ENERGY STAR score from 0-100, with 100 representing the best possible performance. A building can become ENERGY STAR certified if the building is measured above an ENERGY STAR score of 75 (performing within the top quartile of peers). Whether identified by ENERGY STAR or another benchmarking method, a clear target must be established to both ensure the institution is proving responsibility with a defendable level of high performance and to inform the budgetary investments in technology and efficiency that it will require to get there.

Over decades, Bernhard has built a library of historical benchmarks, project costs, and proven results that can inform the kind of up-front costs that will be required to move the needle. Some good rules of thumb for budgeting from benchmarks would include the following:

  • A very poor performer could pull out of the bottom quartile with simple, low-cost upgrades. These typically generate a significant return on investment with a short payback. For most institutions, most of this work has already been done.
  • Exceeding average performance can typically be achieved with a modest budget toward targeted upgrades and systematic changes to operational efficiency. Although it takes some capital to get there, many of these can still generate returns that far-exceed investment.
  • Moving from average to the top quartile requires a significant, but still-justifiable level of capital to overhaul key infrastructure. Although they can generate savings, these investments require a big commitment without a strong financial driver.
  • To breach the top quartile, sites may require a major overhaul of infrastructure and the capital requirements get especially steep. This investment is particularly challenging to justify if the same environmental outcomes could be achieved in different ways. Remaining funding may be better applied elsewhere, like the last, and always necessary, stage of renewable energy and offsets.

We recommend an owner targets efficiency at or above the fourth quartile (an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or greater). Based on the distance from the existing measured benchmark to this target and historical costs in each range, an institution can establish a reasonable budget for efficiency and technology.

Budgeting for source/offsets

Once an efficiency target and budget have been set, an institution can then project how much energy will be required after improvements have been completed.

Some source contract changes can actually generate cost savings. Energy Cost Intensity (ECI) can be used in a similar way to identify non-consumption savings potential. In this case, an institution should at least strive to be able to purchase utilities at or below an average rate. When treated as a package, value-generating source contract changes can support the costs of other necessary investments, like high-capital infrastructure changes that need to be addressed. When it comes to up-front costs for source contract changes, these are typically comprised of consulting hours and relatively small changes to infrastructure (E.g. meters and transformers).

Renewable energy does not necessarily need to be the last step, but it is important to right-size needs by projecting future needs after improvements have been completed. In today’s market, renewable electricity comes at an incremental cost of around $1.5/MWh per year. Renewable natural gas attributes currently cost around $17/Dth. Ideally, this scope would be addressed through on-site installations or off-site power purchase agreements for new resources that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

In some regions, renewable energy may not actually be within an institution’s control. Some regulated markets do not provide options about what type of energy is produced and purchased. Where this is true, an institution must depend on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) or another type of offset.

There are also some types of GHG emissions (E.g. directly-emitted refrigerants and anesthetic gases) that don’t have renewable energy sources. Although steps can be taken to select better options, some emissions may be inescapable. Similarly, some infrastructure systems (E.g. staff vehicles) are not within an institution’s boundary of control, but may still be considered toward their carbon footprint. For all of these things, high-quality offsets are essential to fully offset an environmental footprint. Today, a good rule of thumb for carbon offsets is about $8/metric ton CO2e and prices are expected to escalate quickly over the coming years.

By projecting future energy needs and market rates, and identifying barriers with control, a budget for renewable energy and offsets can be created.

Navigating your roadmap

The top town budgetary process should provide clarity about full financing requirements. This is the perfect time for an institution to reaffirm the sustainability goal and explore potential funding mechanisms. If the costs cannot be supported, it may be a good time to reconsider the goals or to explore alternative sources of financing to support the work.

Treating the full roadmap as a package is a great way to ensure the potential savings can become a source of revenue to fund required investments that cannot be financially justified. Two amazing tools to structure this are 1) a Public-Private Partnership (P3) where a third-party brings forward capital and repays investments from future savings, or 2) a Revolving Sustainability Fund that continually reinvests accrued savings into future projects. One of the nice reasons to consider P3s is that once the up-front investment has been made, those future savings are already committed and are not at risk of being diverted to other budgets in the future.

Once there is organizational alignment and a financing plan has been put in place, we can move to the next step of the decarbonization process – the bottom-up due diligence to build a detailed scoping plan. This is a big commitment of time and resources, so completing the top-down roadmap ahead of time will ensure the more-detailed work is focused, well-justified, and backed with an informed budget.

As you work toward developing your roadmap, don’t let unknowns paralyze your progress. Things will change. Certain factors are simply unknowable to a degree of certainty, but most of this work is low-risk and there will be plenty of opportunities to refine the plan as you go. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. We have to make the best decisions that we can based on what we know today, and technologies and competing options should only improve over time. Bernhard recommends organizations revise and update their roadmap at least every 5 years, to incorporate revisions for the best-available technologies and procedures.

Any plan can be improved. But if you never begin the process, you have nothing to work with. Don’t know where to start? Bernhard knows decarbonization, and we’ve got the tools, talent and decades-long experience to put your large-campus facility’s decarbonization journey in the fast lane. Contact our team of experts today.

About the Author:

With a unique blend of experience in business and engineering, Christopher Benson has been able to substantially reduce emissions, water consumption, and operational costs across a massive portfolio. He has proven that ambitious sustainability goals are not only achievable, but with the right leadership, the efforts can also make great business sense. Chris leads the development of Energy-as-a-Service projects using public-private partnerships and efficiency to finance major infrastructure projects in higher education. Just prior to Bernhard, Chris managed the University of Utah Facilities Sustainability and Energy division, where his team led carbon neutrality initiatives, benchmarking performance, and utility procurement. 

The Hidden Environmental Impact of Anesthetic Gases: A Call to Action

By: Diana Husmann, David Lamberson, Cami Lambert 

In the ongoing global dialogue about climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it’s easy to miss certain unexpected but significant contributors to the issue. One area that’s often overlooked is the use of Inhaled Anesthetic Agents (IAA) like sevoflurane, isoflurane, nitrous oxide, and desflurane by the healthcare sector.

Used for decades to reduce anxiety and safely induce a painless unconsciousness during surgical procedures, there’s growing recognition that IAAs are powerful greenhouse gasses, with hundreds or even thousands of times more heat-trapping potential than well-known global warming contributors like carbon dioxide. Exhaled by patients as waste gas and routinely vented directly to outside air during procedures, some of these IAAs can linger in the atmosphere for well over a century.

Climate change and global warming are a growing threat to the planet and human survival, so many hospital campuses in the United States are taking a new look at anesthetic gasses and their use, including choosing those with the least environmental impact. With partners like Bernhard specializing in greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon footprint reduction, healthcare systems across the U.S. are also developing strategies for tracking IAA leakage while re-examining their policies on venting and reclaiming waste IAAs before they can reach the environment.

Through commonsense efforts to limit the use and venting of certain particularly damaging IAAs, hospitals can not only help save the environment through more mindful stewardship, but they can also potentially save themselves quite a bit of money in overall maintenance and IAA usage as well.


While essential for patient comfort and safety during surgical procedures, many IAAs have a potent impact on our environment.

These IAAs contribute to a hazy blanket of gas in the atmosphere, holding more heat from the sun close to the Earth rather than allowing it to radiate back out into space.

To make matters worse, many hospitals in the U.S. do little to capture or reduce the environmental impact of IAAs released during procedures. During surgery, only a small fraction of anesthetic gas is actually metabolized by the patient to maintain unconsciousness. The rest, approximately 95%, is exhaled as what’s called waste anesthetic gas (WAG).

To prevent these exhaled waste gases from impairing those working in the operating room, they’re usually pulled into the ventilation system by exhaust fans before being directed through ductwork to the roof, where they are vented to the air. Because these gases are directly vented from the hospital, they are considered Scope 1 GHG emissions.

While quickly venting waste gas protects hospital staff, the impact on the environment can be significant. One researcher found that using desflurane during a single surgery produced roughly the same global warming impact as driving 12 diesel-powered Humvee SUVs during the entire procedure. Put another way: 8 hours of anesthesia using desflurane during surgery is the environmental equivalent of 116 days of driving in the average passenger car.

Multiply that by the yearly caseload of more than 42,000 anesthesiologists currently working in the U.S., and you begin to see the staggering scope of the problem, and why it should not be allowed to continue unchecked.


While new technologies for capturing or destroying more waste IAAs are being explored, hospital campuses can take plenty of steps to reduce the number of anesthesia gases released into the atmosphere.

  • MAKE TECHNOLOGY YOUR ALLY: The range of technology designed to help organizations reduce greenhouse gas emissions is growing every day, and that includes reducing the harm anesthesia gas does to the environment. For example, many medical gas scavenging systems are designed to run constantly, even when a patient isn’t in the room receiving anesthesia. Consider medical gas vacuum valves to help reduce this drain on energy resources. If the pressure switch isn’t activated, these valves attach to the anesthesia machine, turning off the vacuum scavenging function. In one notable example of how this technology can help, the Cleveland Clinic installed more than 120 medical gas vacuum valves at its main campus and saved more than $110,000 in energy costs, and reduced maintenance while increasing the lifespan of the equipment.
  • CONSIDER REPLACING OLDER ANESTHESIA MACHINES WITH MORE EFFICIENT MODELS: Many older designs for anesthesia machines didn’t consider the impact of IAAs on the environment. These days, with more hospitals looking to reduce their carbon footprint, many modern machines have features like automatic flow-rate alerts and advanced carbon dioxide absorbers that help anesthesiologists maintain lower gas flow rates during procedures without compromising patient comfort or safety. Using less gas means less waste gas being vented into the atmosphere, and the results can be dramatic. For example, between 2014-2017, Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center purchased 37 new anesthesia machines with features designed to allow for lower flow rates and reduce IAA waste. During the three-year program, these machines reduced nitrous oxide use at the hospital by 45.5 percent, while reducing spending on anesthetic gases overall by more than 27 percent.
  • DECOMMISSION LEAK-PRONE CENTRALIZED NITROUS OXIDE DISTRIBUTION IN FAVOR OF PORTABLE CANISTERS: Nitrous oxide is particularly detrimental to the environment because it has an exceptionally long atmospheric lifetime. Nitrous Oxide can be lost before use in central piping systems because of leaks found in supply tanks, manifolds, zone valves, pipelines & joints, pressure gauges, wall outlets, and anesthesia machines. The amount of nitrous oxide supplied to the system should be compared to the amount delivered to the patient. In addition, hospitals can significantly reduce their emissions footprint by delivering nitrous oxide in portable canisters. For example, a Northwest-based medical center recently found that switching from centralized delivery systems to portable nitrous cylinders reduced emissions from 594 mtCO2e/year to 5.6 mtCO2e/year.
  • EDUCATE ANESTHESIOLOGISTS ON THE IMPACT OF IAAs, AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE THEIR USE OF THE MOST HARMFUL GASSES: All of the most important anesthesia gasses in use today contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, but some IAAs — particularly nitrous oxide and desflurane — are much more harmful to the environment than others. Due to that potential harm, recent guidance from the Association of Anesthetists calls for anesthetists to avoid desflurane and nitrous oxide if possible. One potential benefit of going green is desflurane is much more expensive than sevoflurane, potentially helping large hospitals save hundreds of thousands per year while helping the environment.
  • SEEK A TRUSTED AND KNOWLEDGEABLE PARTNER: Tracking down IAA leaks, installing monitoring technology, phasing out or updating antiquated distribution infrastructure, air quality monitoring, installing anesthetic gas sequestration systems, evaluating new technologies and more is all part of the puzzle of reducing the environmental impact of anesthesia gas. Get any of it wrong, and you might wind up worse off than when you started. With that in mind, you’ll likely need to find a trusted mechanical and technology provider with specialized experience in anesthetic gas distribution, advanced monitoring and troubleshooting complex systems. That’s a path to getting real, measurable results while not letting the budget spiral out of control.


With more than 120 years of experience working with hospitals and over two decades in carbon reduction, monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx), and greenhouse gas mitigation, Bernhard is ready to be the trusted partner hospitals need to reduce their dependence on the most environmentally harmful anesthesia gasses, fix leaky systems and find true, lasting IAA reduction. Nobody knows the energy and environmental challenges faced by large campus hospitals better than Bernhard, and with a growing portfolio of clients who we’ve helped reduce anesthesia gas use, waste and expenditures, we’re rapidly becoming the most trusted name in the still relatively new field of IAA mitigation. Bernhard knows IAA, and we’ve got the tools, team and advanced technology you need to get your anesthesia-related emissions under control while potentially saving tens of thousands annually on wasted anesthetic gas. Is your campus ready to be part of the solution of one of the biggest greenhouse gas contributors in healthcare today? Contact our team today.

Commercial Building Decarbonization and Why It Matters

With America feeling the impact of climate change through extreme weather events like prolonged droughts and catastrophic hurricanes, finding ways to reduce the number of greenhouse gasses (GHG) released into the atmosphere every year is increasingly top-of-mind for businesses, government leaders, and the public.

One area where the United States has a lot of room to improve emissions is through the energy and efficiency of commercial buildings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings are responsible for 826 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, which accounts for 16 percent of U.S. emissions overall.

What exactly is decarbonization?

Decarbonization is the process of reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. Although carbon is not the only greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, it is the most significant. Whether referred to as ‘net zero’, ‘full decarbonization’, or ‘carbon neutrality’, related environmental goals measure all significant GHG emissions and convert them to an equivalent ton of carbon for simple benchmarking and tracking.

Reductions can be achieved through several different methods, including implementing “smart building” technologies that allow energy use to be carefully monitored and regulated, maximizing energy efficiency during the construction of new buildings, retrofits that increase the overall efficiency of existing systems, or producing energy from sustainable sources like geothermal, wind and solar. To fully decarbonize, efficiency, technology changes, renewable energy, and offsets are all required.

Why is decarbonization important?

Not only is climate change an environmental issue, but it has also been recognized as the most significant danger to human life from the effects of more frequent and more severe natural disasters. The impacts of climate change are inequitable, and most likely to impact poor and disadvantaged communities.

Decarbonization-related environmental goals are incredibly important, but they do not define why healthcare systems, higher education institutions, and other organizations exist in the first place. What is the point of a school if there are not sufficient light and comfortable conditions for students and teachers to effectively educate and conduct research? State-funded institutions must remain good stewards of taxpayer money or they will unfairly burden the community.

Healthcare spaces, which are built to protect and enhance the quality of life, ironically use more energy per square foot and produce more emissions than any other category of commercial building in the United States. It’s more than double the national average for commercial buildings. Many types of educational facilities are also significantly higher energy users than average.

Owners are faced with so many choices about how to procure supplies, what types of technologies to use, and how to operate what they have. Serving a core mission can be accomplished in a number of ways, but successful decarbonization allows an organization to do this while minimizing operational waste and proving environmental responsibility.

The problem of wasted energy

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at least 30 percent of the energy used by commercial buildings in the United States is wasted. Campuses can include dozens of large buildings, built to radically different efficiency standards that were in place for several decades. When the buildings rely on outdated control systems and aging infrastructure, the resulting performance is usually well below peak efficiency. As a result of these wasteful effects, many campuses face unnecessarily high energy expenditures every year and are more vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs.

For large commercial campuses, with millions of square feet of buildings, the cost and environmental savings to be gained through efforts like retro-commissioning, waste heat recovery, and infrastructure improvements can be substantial. Saving energy has the win-win impact of both reducing annual spending and minimizing environmental impacts.

How is decarbonization done?

For a large owner, decarbonization requires changes to how infrastructure is operated, what technologies are used, where energy is sourced from, and offsets for emissions that can’t be controlled or avoided.

The transition to true ‘carbon neutrality’ is a long and complicated effort, requiring significant time, talent, and capital to make it a reality. This process will be most cost-effective and most successful at avoiding common pitfalls by splitting the process into the following steps:

      • Clarify the goal.
      • Baseline and benchmark performance
      • Establish top-down ‘budgetary’ needs.
      • Identify specific opportunities that can be prioritized.
      • Roadmap the most cost-effective path to the end goal
      • Procure/finance and implement changes.
      • Monitor, maintain, and expand results.

The value adds of decarbonization and building improvements

Most of the headlines around decarbonization efforts are rightly focused on mitigating the effects of climate change that threaten our shared environmental future. Even beyond those factors, there are many additional benefits of commercial building decarbonization and the resulting infrastructure improvements.

Another area where commercial building improvements can have a sizable impact is indoor air quality. This can be particularly important for universities and hospitals, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Building decarbonization often involves taking a close look at HVAC systems, replacing, repairing, or recalibrating the various components so they work together better than originally designed. In addition to boosting overall energy efficiency, this process often improves both ventilation capacity and air filtration. The result is heating, cooling, and air-handling systems that are better able to reduce dust, mold, allergens and other contaminants, with a corresponding improvement in overall air quality.

Improvements with decarbonization also have the potential to make infrastructure much more resilient against factors that can threaten mission-critical services. For example, Bernhard recently completed a multi-year energy project at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). A major component of the project was the completion of a $50 million power plant that can supply the entire electrical needs of the campus on demand if primary power is lost.

In addition to improved energy stability, the result is better energy security for UAMS, allowing the campus to ride out any future electrical interruptions without impacting care. At a time when everything from more powerful storms to a troubling rise of domestic terror attacks on electrical substations threatens the stability of the power grid in the U.S., that’s increasingly important.

Ready to see what decarbonization can do for your environmental footprint, annual energy spend, and resilience? Bernhard knows decarbonization and has been leading the industry for years. We can show you the way to a brighter, more efficient future for your large-campus facility. Learn how to take the first step by contacting us today.

About the Author:

With a unique blend of experience in business and engineering, Christopher Benson has been able to substantially reduce emissions, water consumption, and operational costs across a massive portfolio. He has proven that ambitious sustainability goals are not only achievable, but with the right leadership, the efforts can also make great business sense. Chris leads the development of Energy-as-a-Service projects using public-private partnerships and efficiency to finance major infrastructure projects in higher education. Just prior to Bernhard, Chris managed the University of Utah Facilities Sustainability and Energy division, where his team led carbon neutrality initiatives, benchmarking performance, and utility procurement. 

Bernhard named Best of GBB 2022 by Green Business Bureau

Click to view.

Just as we have helped our customers develop and achieve drastic energy reduction goals, we understand we also have a responsibility to monitor and mitigate the environmental impacts of our own operations. Bernhard being one of the five companies worldwide named Best of GBB in 2022 by Green Business Bureau proves that sustainability isn’t just something we talk about, we live it every day.

Combined, our energy projects have saved customers tens of millions of dollars in utility costs, while simultaneously avoiding more than 5 million metric tons of CO2e from being released into the atmosphere. According to the EPA, that’s equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 1 million passenger cars.

22 of Bernhard’s offices are now GBB Certified, and we proudly display the GBB Seal on our website. It’s more than just a feel-good effort or window dressing. Certification provides our company with verified and credible proof that the sustainable efforts we’ve put in place are actually working to reduce Bernhard’s collective impact on the environment. As we provide a cleaner, more energy-efficient future for our customers, we’re doing the same for our employees and local communities, which is echoed by our inclusion in GBB’s Best of 2022 award.


Green Business Bureau was established in 2008 to help companies of all sizes affordably meet their environmental sustainability goals with less complexity, less confusion, and less disruption to their operations. In addition to giving members access to an online sustainability assessment and prioritization tools like their EcoScorecard and EcoPlanner software, Green Business Bureau provides rigorous, third-party Green Business Certification.

GBB certification is the most guided and automated certification in the industry. Performed online and initiative based, GBB’s flexible certification framework allows companies to receive points for each sustainability initiative they have completed. With more than 500 initiatives to complete, companies are awarded a GBB EcoScore based on their accumulated points with tiered certification levels.

Initiatives are organized into categories, including ‘Community and Society’, ‘Consumption and Waste’, ‘Energy Use and Emissions’, ‘Transportation’, ‘Water Use’, and ‘Workplace and Culture’ to fully capture the scope of each company’s sustainability efforts. Each category is further scored on the effort, cost, and impact of the company’s initiatives.

GBB members have a publicly available EcoScore page on the GBB website. On this page, completed environmental initiatives are briefly described and scored, so visitors can get a sense of the ground-level efforts each company is taking to meet sustainability goals. Each of Bernhard’s 22 certified locations have their own GBB EcoScore page, with certification levels including Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. We’ve collectively completed more than 800 scored environmental initiatives to date, ranging from ensuring our paper products are made from recycled material to launching a composting program for business-related food waste.

Only the businesses that meet Green Business Bureau goals are allowed to display the GBB Seal. The clickable web seal takes visitors to each location’s personal sustainability page, which shows the total point score, sustainability accomplishments, and Green Business Bureau certification level.

GBB certification allows companies to make measurable, verifiable progress toward impactful environmental goals, marking and celebrating successes while also highlighting areas still in need of improvement. Certification lets GBB members showcase the concrete steps they’re taking to meet ESG goals, which are increasingly important for environmentally conscious customers, employees, and potential hires.

The result: improved morale, a stronger workforce, competitive differentiation from others in the field, and potentially higher sales as today’s customers want their companies to share in the same values regarding sustainability and the environment.


In our 104 years in business, Bernhard has never been a “do as we say, not as we do” company. We lead by example. We don’t shrink from challenges. We rise to meet them with the same grit, determination, innovation, and optimism that has always been at the heart of our business.

Businesses, our clients, our nation, and the world are increasingly determined to take meaningful steps toward lowering carbon emissions and mitigating climate change. Bernhard is never content to stand on the sidelines or make empty promises when there’s work to be done. We’re moved to action, and if we’re going to do it, we’re going to make sure that our strategies are achievable, and our goals are met.

Through the help of the Green Business Bureau and GBB Certification, we are doing just that, and doing our part for our shared environmental future. By being named one of five companies in the world to receive GBB’s Best of 2022 Award, Bernhard is not only showing that serious sustainability goals are achievable even for companies of our size, but also setting an example that can be affordably and efficiently followed by the entire AEC industry.

About the Author:

As an ESG Analyst at Bernhard, Ashtyn Bell is involved in building and executing portfolio-wide initiatives in key ESG topics such as climate change and sustainability; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I); and employee and community engagement. She has provided leadership and structure through the GBB certification efforts throughout 22 certified locations, coordinating with local green teams and sustainability champions to complete GBB initiatives. She is also supporting the launch of Bernhard Leans In – a partnership between Bernhard and Lean In to develop new personal and professional skills needed to lean into leadership and embrace challenges through employee groups. In addition to developing the program, she is also leading the Remote Workers and LGBT+ Circles. Ashtyn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., majoring in Physics and minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies.