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Imagine a Day without Water: The Importance of Water in Healthcare

While all buildings require water for consumption, heating, cooling, and plumbing, access to clean water is arguably most critical in healthcare settings. Facilities such as the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX have unique needs to be met in order to safely provide for patients and hospital staff. Lee Nordholm, PE, LEED AP, a mechanical engineer at SSR’s Dallas office, was a key team member in the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital Tower III expansion. His team ensured systems were in place to continually supply the campus with clean water. Furthermore, the state of Texas holds a 12-gallon per patient bed water storage requirement. To meet this requirement, and to ensure the campus can continue to operate in an emergency, the Central Utility Plant (CUP) at UTSW hosts a 5,000-gallon cistern that stores cold water prior to hospital distribution.

As an acute-care hospital with research and educational components, water plays a crucial role in the sterilization process across the facility’s multiple departments. This process typically relies on steam at temperatures greater than 250 degrees to thoroughly disinfect equipment. Cold water is then used to rinse and cool down the materials to prepare them for re-use. To minimize the amount of water contaminated in this process, the expansion at UTSW was fitted with a closed-loop cooler connected to the building chilled water system. This method reduces water usage for the sterilization process from approximately 50 gallons per minute to less than two. As a world-class facility, UTSW is dependent on water to continue its service offerings, and its reliable water supply and sustainable consumption practices ensure patients continue to receive much-needed quality care.