The $625 million Canberra Hospital Expansion will run completely on the ACT’s 100 per cent renewable electricity supply, dumping gas-fired heating and cooling from its design in a world-leading climate action initiative.
The ACT Government is expanding Canberra Hospital to include a new 40,000 square metre emergency, surgical and critical healthcare facility at the existing hospital campus in Woden, formerly known as the SPIRE project.
The new facility will use efficient all-electric heat pumps instead of gas turbines, saving 1886 tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year, equivalent to taking 760 cars off Canberra roads each year.
ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said the move added $1.4 million to the cost of the project but was a significant step towards an emissions-free health sector, and continued to reflect the ACT’s world-leading action on climate change.
He said the extra cost was less than 0.5 per cent of the total cost of project.
”If we build in a marginal cost at the front end we can build in a significant climate saving that will play out over next 30 to 40 years.
”This is what real climate action looks like, it’s about taking these step-by-step measures to make sure we’re not building in a legacy for the next 30 years of running gas turbines in the basement of this facility,” Mr Rattenbury said.
It was a bold step, he said, that at first was met with resistance from those saying it couldn’t be done in a 24/7 hospital facility but one that now sets a standard for the ACT and the rest of Australia about what can be done if we take climate action seriously.
Mr Rattenbury said government consultants had not been able to identify a similar facility anywhere else in the world.
The government has committed in its recently released ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025 to actions that ensure newly built government buildings are all-electric and emissions-free, as well as specifically to reducing emissions from ACT Health facilities.
President of the Climate and Health Alliance Amanda Adrian praised the ACT’s leadership, saying it was a very strong lesson for other communities and jurisdictions.
She said 7 per cent of emissions in Australia were generated by the health system.
Ms Adrian attacked the lack of leadership from the Federal Government on the climate health emergency.
“It’s going to be a long, slow process,” she said.
Dr Arnagretta Hunter, a Canberra Hospital cardiologist also from Climate and Health Alliance, said the health ramifications of climate change would probably affect all of us at some stage.
”We know the health impacts of climate change because we lived through the horror Black Summer this year,” she said.
And the climate forecasts were showing that Australia would likely see more extreme temperatures and bushfires in the future.
”If the health industry can take the leadership in addressing our carbon footprint and heading to a zero-emissions platform as fast as possible then I think we can show that it is possible,” Dr Hunter said.
”We’re going to need to do things differently, we’re going to have to have room for imagination and I think we see this in the initiative that’s being taken with this new hospital design.”
Mr Rattenbury said the older parts of the hospital would continue to rely on gas but its use would be phased out over time.
Construction of the new facility will begin in 2021, and is expected to be completed in 2024.