What you should look at when designing a HVAC system for a medical facility
When it comes to HVAC systems design, hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in general are typically quite sensitive applications. Of course, thermal comfort is important, just like in any comfort cooling applications, but on top of that, hospitals require safety for those who occupy the building – both patience and personnel – and cooling for high-heat specialized items such as MRI machines or lasers, for instance.
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So, HVAC systems for the healthcare sector require a somewhat different approach than other applications, because they are required to meet needs that are specific to that particular application. But what do medical facilities exactly need?
Medical facilities need HVAC system that can ensure health, safety and comfort of patients as well as medical and administrative personnel and visitors. Other than that, medical facilities must filter airborne contaminants, help get rid of bacteria that can spread infections, and provide conditions in which medical procedures, laboratory work, patient treatment and healing activities in general can be performed safely and effectively.
With this article we want to stress aspects consultants should absolutely look at when working on projects for the healthcare sector. So, here a few things that in our opinion need to be taken into account when designing a HVAC system for a medical facility.
1 – Temperature control, indoor air quality and filtration
Thermal comfort in medical facilities is as important as in other application. In fact, patients recovering from health problems definitely deserve the best possible thermal comfort, which can only be ensured through perfect temperature and humidity control. Another important aspect when it comes to temperature control is the fact that medical facilities may require different temperature levels depending on the specific indoor environment. In surgery rooms, for instance, there is often a demand for low temperature, as surgical teams may be overheat by gowns, caps, gloves and masks. This request for low temperature, though, may have a conflicting impact on anaesthetised patients. That is why HVAC systems are often required to be able to quickly recover heat and raise the temperature as soon as surgery is completed.
Another reason why perfect temperature control is crucial is that is required to prevent high-heat specialized items breakdowns. This is the case of lasers and MRI machines, for instance, which are essential to patients’ treatment and satisfaction – other than being very important to medical facilities as businesses.
Are you interested in Daikin chiller solutions for Hospitals? Check out how Daikin can provide value for health sector applications: Hospital Universitario Infanta Elena de Valdemoro Project
Air quality, then, is even more important than comfort. Patients’ immune system is usually weak and their bodies vulnerable to bacteria, viruses and airborne infections. Thoroughly designed HVAC system can help reduce the density of infectious particles in indoor spaces by introducing clean air, or by recirculating air through high-quality filters, providing filtered air that can even be cleaner than outdoor air.
Are you interested in Daikin ventilation solutions for Hospitals? Check out this example of how Daikin can provide value for health sector applications: The New Papworth Hospital project
2 – Energy efficiency
Did you know The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that HVAC systems consume almost half of the total energy used in health care facilities? That is most likely what happens in any medical facility, no matter the country they are placed in; and independently of whether healthcare is private or paid by taxpayers, it is fundamental to reduce consumption in this sector to better invest in facilities and services improvements.
Of course, energy consumption can be reduced by following energy conservation practices, but also using effective energy-efficient technologies. When it comes to HVAC systems and their optimization in terms of efficiency, highly efficient inverter screw and centrifugal compressors are a must.
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Inverter compressors in particular can adjust their effort based on the actual building load demand in different times of the year or different moments of the day. That is one of the most important features to ensure energy-efficiency in a facility like a hospital.
Another aspect that needs to be considered when working on making the HVAC system more efficient is the variation in load demand of the building. To make the HVAC system more efficient it is important that the water flow in the HVAC system can vary depending on the actual load demand of the building, making pumps more efficient. A Variable Water Flow system is the perfect solution to this need, because it modulates the quantity of water flowing through the system, ensuring that pumps work as efficiently as possible, thus reducing their impact on energy consumptions.
Then, since HVAC systems for medical facilities are usually complex systems integrating groups of units, a system control is usually required. Daikin Intelligent Chiller Manager (iCM), for instance, helps harmonizing units’ operations, allowing them to reach their goal with minimum effort, both in terms of energy consumption and mechanically.
3 – Preventive maintenance and reliability
When it comes to reliability hospital HVAC systems are very demanding. HVAC systems are responsible for keeping high indoor air quality and providing safe temperatures for patients and personnel in the facility, hence preventive maintenance is crucial, as downtime can be a huge problem for patients and have high costs. Repairing problems right away to minimize downtime and being able to effectively schedule preventive maintenance actions is critical for safe operations in a hospital environment.
For these reasons an advanced monitoring tool such as Daikin on Site (DoS) is needed. Being able to rely on a tool providing information with a great level of detail is fundamental for plant owners who can take and plan preventive actions based on real data avoiding extra costs associated with breakdowns and downtime.
4 – Noise
Healthcare facilities usually require huge amounts of fresh air for air exchange, so infections can be prevented. Therefore, low frequency noise from the HVAC system is usually common in such facilities. Also, hospitals usually lack sound-absorbing material, because of the concerns about infection control. In fact, hard and reflective materials that won’t help the proliferation of infectious organisms and are easily cleaned, are usually are preferred in the construction of these buildings.
Noise, not only can affect physiological processes of personnel, creating a potential risk for communication breakdown and errors, but also create discomfort for patients who need a quiet environment to heal and recover. For all these reasons it is important to create an environment where noise from the HVAC system is reduced to a minimum. So, to ensure that medical facilities can offer the quietest possible environment to both personnel and patients, it is important to choose units that can provide the lowest possible noise levels.
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