Taking a Tempurature Read: Sustainable Heating and Cooling Keeps This Mob Healthy and Tenants Happy

By Johnson, Jeffrey A. | Journal of Property Management, March/April 2016 | Go to article overview

Taking a Tempurature Read: Sustainable Heating and Cooling Keeps This Mob Healthy and Tenants Happy


Johnson, Jeffrey A., Journal of Property Management


When the indoor air quality and temperature inside of any facility go unnoticed by tenants, it is a strong indicator the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are working properly. While virtually invisible to tenants, HVAC should be top-of-mind for every property manager and building owner. This is especially true considering energy costs continue to rise and HVAC systems are a large contributor to a building's indoor environmental quality and energy use.

Environmental efficiency and the functionality of heating and cooling systems is even more important in outpatient or medical office buildings (MOB) where maintaining healthy, comfortable and financially prudent conditions are crucial to the success of healthcare businesses.

"When working with healthcare tenants, building efficiency is becoming increasingly important," said Rebecca Monroe, CPM, vice president of asset management for CNL Healthcare Properties, a real estate investment trust (REIT) focused on senior housing and healthcare facilities. "From a financial perspective, costs are already high for most medical providers and reimbursements are continuously being cut. An energy-efficient building not only reduces facility costs for our tenants, but also lessens allergens and produces a healthier environment for patients with weakened immune systems."

"Additionally, it provides tenants with confidence that the building's systems will function at all times, allowing them to better serve their patients," said Monroe.

OPTIMAL INDOOR AIR QUALITY INCREASES WORKER PRODUCTIVITY

Improved cognitive function is another strong argument for improving indoor air quality. A joint peer-review study-Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments-recently conducted by researchers from Harvard University, SUNY-Upstate Medical Center and Syracuse University, shows that improved indoor environmental quality can positively impact human cognitive function, thus optimizing conditions for health and increasing worker productivity and performance.

In the study, where 24 participants spent six full workdays in an environmentally controlled office space, researchers reported that on average, employees' cognitive function test scores improved 101 percent in green building environments with enhanced ventilation compared to a conventional building environment.

MAKING ENERGY MANAGEMENT A PRIORITY

For these reasons and more, energy management and sustainability are a primary focus of the property management and ownership team at the 62,503-square-foot Scripps Medical Building in Chula Vista, Calif. Located on the campus of Scripps Mercy Hospital, the five-story building is owned by CNL Healthcare Properties and managed by Cypress West Partners of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Originally built in 1975, the property was acquired by CNL Healthcare Properties in January 2014. The medical office building (MOB) is currently 97 percent occupied and houses two primary tenants, including Scripps Health System and Quest Diagnostics. Multiple family practice, urgent and surgical care offices occupy the remainder of the building.

As a part of the acquisition, the Property Conditions Report revealed the lifespan of the rooftop HVAC equipment was nearing its end. Furthermore, the building's two existing direct expansion (DX) HVAC units used R-22 refrigerant, a product the Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out due to its ozone depleting properties. After 2020, the production or importing of R-22 refrigerant will be banned. This environmental concern alone put the property management team on alert. However, comfort issues, energy efficiency and failing equipment challenges just months after purchasing the building made it apparent that the aging rooftop equipment needed to be replaced sooner than anticipated. …

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