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The atmosphere in hospitals can become compromised in many ways. Chemicals, anesthesia, and, of course, the potential transmission of diseases are ever present. Clearly, in this environment, comfort is simply not the only priority for an efficient HVAC system. Factors like temperature, humidity, airflow, pressurization, and exhaust must be carefully addressed to mitigate the spread of diseases and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Infection control is a principal component of hospital management. Highly contagious conditions that can be spread through airborne transmission create serious problems. HVAC systems must be able to evacuate and neutralize these threats without spreading them to the breathing zones of other patients or employees. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) has established formal parameters with their HVAC Design Guidelines for Hospitals and Clinics. The ASHRAE Standard 170 of 2008 offers specific direction for environment comfort, infection control, life safety, energy conservation, and emergency planning.

Role of HVAC Design in Hospitals

Because of the multiple risks in hospitals, HVAC design systems must address sometimes conflicting airborne management issues at one time. The Design Manual for Hospitals and Clinics by ASHRAE provides a complete discussion of managing multiple challenges. For example, operating rooms are to be cooler and with lower humidity levels than imaging chambers. Morgues and autopsy rooms have different requirements than pharmacies and isolation rooms. Laboratories, dialysis, and chemotherapy rooms must have very specific ventilation and evacuation systems to prevent exposure to employees and patients. Sterile rooms must have highly filtered, clean air intake, while bone marrow transplant areas must be carefully controlled to prevent infection.

Clearly, hospitals are complex environments that require special design and careful installation. The most accurate temperature, air pressure, and humidity monitoring devices must coordinate with HVAC, humidifying, filtering, and exhaust systems. Only proven, state-of-the-art equipment should be used. The design, installation, and maintenance of the HVAC and other systems should be handled only by the most professional and experienced companies that are well-versed in ASHRAE recommendations.

Mitigating Emergencies

Every system in a hospital must have at least one contingency in case of an emergency such as a power interruption or act of God that disrupts normal operations. Stoppage of the HVAC systems can be disastrous, causing crossover contamination and spread of infectious airborne microbes. The design phase for these systems must incorporate instantly reactive and capable backup systems. Internal disruptions may include power outages, water supply breakages, ventilation systems failures, medical gas disruptions, steam supply or humidification outages, or many other possibilities. Visualizing every contingency is important to ensuring that disasters may be mitigated.

Preventative Maintenance for Hospital HVAC Systems

Regular preventative maintenance for all air handling, exhaust, and HVAC systems is extremely critical in the hospital environment. Maintenance to prevent failures by testing and replacing parts and filters as needed are essential and ongoing functions.General Mechanical experts have the training and certifications to ensure that all equipment is clean, well-maintained, and operating as designed. With the proper care, hospital administrators can focus their attention on managing the facility properly so that healthcare professionals can perform the job of healing and caring for patients. In the Chicago area, contact General Mechanical for expert collaboration in design, precision installation, and timely effective preventative maintenance programs for all critical HVAC systems. Contact us today to learn more.