Prescription for Reliability:
District energy heats and cools
Detroit Medical Center
For more than six years, Detroit Thermal has counted the largest
health care provider in southeast Michigan among its customers.
The Detroit Medical Center (DMC) draws patients from metropolitan
Detroit and as far away as the Middle East to its nine world-class
specialty hospitals, which total more than 2,000 licensed beds and
3,000 physicians. The DMC relies on Detroit Thermal to supply steam
for space heating, domestic hot water, medical equipment sterilization,
air conditioning and kitchen processes.
During first quarter 2009, the DMC again gave Detroit Thermal
its vote of confidence, signing a new 10-year, $80 million agreement
that will keep the steam flowing to the three facilities previously on
the system plus add a major new building to the mix.
The three DMC institutions already served by Detroit Thermal
include the following:
; Children’s Hospital of Michigan – Founded in 1886, the hospital is
an international leader in pediatric and adolescent medicine and
the region’s only pediatric Level I Trauma Center, equipped to
handle the most severe injuries and illnesses.
; Harper University Hospital – This specialty referral hospital created
the first mechanical heart bypass pump and is still known as a
technology leader. Also covered under the steam contract are the
Wertz Clinical Cancer Center, a part of Harper University Hospital;
Harper Hospital Professional Office Building; and Harper Hospital
; Hutzel Women’s Hospital – Michigan’s first and only hospital for
women, it was established more than 137 years ago and ranks as
the number one hospital in the nation in research awards for its
This fall the 280,000-sq-ft Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
is slated to become the fourth major DMC hospital on the Detroit
Thermal network; it previously maintained its own four-boiler operation. This facility helps people rebuild their lives after a serious illness
or injury as one of the nation’s largest hospitals specializing in
rehabilitation medicine and research. The Rehabilitation Institute is
renowned for its expertise in spinal cord and brain injuries, complex
trauma, and orthopedics and catastrophic injuries. With 30 outpatient
sites throughout southeast Michigan, the institute is also a center of
choice for people – including athletes at all levels of participation –
recovering from sports and orthopedic injuries.
Since the Rehabilitation Institute was not formerly on the Detroit
Thermal system, the building had to be connected to a large underground steam line that feeds other parts of the DMC. The job required
excavation and installation of approximately 350 ft of new pipe
from the feeder line into the building, plus installation of a service
valve, a steam flow meter and a pressure-regulating valve.
Before renewing and expanding its contract with Detroit Thermal,
the DMC studied other options for meeting its energy needs. The
health system had considered building its own steam generation
plant – an operation that would have taken two to three years to
complete, obligated extensive capital resources and occupied a lot
Courtesy Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.
The DMC’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan houses numerous innovative programs, including the Southeastern Michigan Traumatic Brain
Injury System and the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery. The hospital comes online as a steam customer this fall.
of valuable space. Instead the DMC contracted with Detroit Thermal
at a price that is consistent with what self-generation would have
cost without the disadvantages of building its own plant.
The medical center concluded that district energy made good
business sense, including for the newest hospital to be connected
to steam service. According to David Timm, the DMC’s director of
facility engineering and construction, “One of the main advantages of
the new contract for the Rehabilitation Institute is that our steam cost
will be predictable, which will allow us to budget more effectively.”
But given the critical care provided to patients in its various
institutions, the DMC considers reliability to be the most important
benefit of being a steam customer: Any unplanned interruption of
steam service would clearly cause major problems in its hospitals
and facilities. One of the ways Detroit Thermal ensures reliability that
is steam service can be provided to the campus via three separate supply lines. The DMC named Detroit Thermal’s history of reliability and
customer service as key factors in its decision to sign another steam
contract. The DMC’s choice of district energy also supports the efforts
of its facility director group, whose objectives include finding ways
to reduce the center’s carbon footprint.
As the DMC continues its mission of delivering excellent medical
care, Detroit Thermal is proud to serve such an esteemed institution.
The company views its installation of the new pipeline serving the
DMC as another investment in the steam system’s future – and a
part of fulfilling its own mission to provide reliable, safe and worry-free
district energy services throughout downtown Detroit.
For more information, please contact Vic Koppang at
To view other Customer Closeup profiles, visit District Energy
magazine online at http://tinyurl.com/2q09DEmag and search
“Customer Closeup” in all issues.