HVAC systems for medical facilities are typically quite sensitive projects. Of course, thermal comfort is important, just like in any comfort cooling applications. But hospitals also require safety for both patience and personnel occupying the building, and cooling for equipment such as MRI machines or lasers.
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Requirements in HVAC systems for medical facilities
HVAC systems for the healthcare sector require a somewhat different approach than other applications. That is because of the needs that are specific to the 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 they should consider when designing a HVAC system for a medical facility.
1. Temperature control
Thermal comfort in medical facilities is as important as in other application. In fact, patients recovering from health problems deserve the best possible thermal comfort. Hence, temperature and humidity control is fundamental. Another important aspect when it comes to temperature control is the fact that medical facilities may require different temperatures depending on the specific area. In surgery rooms, for instance, there is often a demand for low temperature, as surgical teams may be overheat by surgical equipment. This request for low temperature, though, may have a conflicting impact on anaesthetised patients. That is why HVAC systems usually need to quickly recover heat and raise the temperature as soon as surgery is completed.
Another reason why perfect temperature control is crucial is that it prevents specialized items breakdowns. This is the case of lasers and MRI machines, which are essential to patients’ treatment and satisfaction.
2. Indoor air quality and filtration
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.
3. HVAC systems for medical facilities and 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. It is fundamental, then, to reduce consumption in this sector to better invest in facilities and services improvements.
- Compressor technology
Of course, following energy conservation practices and using effective energy-efficient technologies can help reducing energy consumption. When it comes to HVAC systems and their optimization in terms of efficiency, highly efficient inverter screw and centrifugal compressors are a must.
Inverter compressors in particular can adjust their effort based on the actual building load demand in different times of the year or moments of the day. That is one of the most important features to ensure energy-efficiency in a facility like a hospital.
- Variable Water Flow System
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. A Variable Water Flow system is the perfect solution to this need. It modulates the quantity of water flowing through the system and ensures that pumps work as efficiently as possible. Thus, reduces their impact on energy consumptions.
Then, since HVAC systems for medical facilities are usually integrate groups of units, a system control is usually necessary. Daikin Intelligent Chiller Manager (iCM) helps optimizing units operations, allowing them to reach their goal with minimum effort, both in terms of energy consumption and mechanically.
4. 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 occupants. 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 fundamental. Being able to rely on a tool providing information with a great level of detail is extremely important for plant owners. It allows them to plan preventive actions based on real data. So, it allows to avoid extra costs associated with breakdowns and downtime.
Find a video describing how DoS can provide value for facility managers.
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 the preferred choice in the construction of these buildings.
Noise, not only can affect physiological processes of personnel, creating a potential risk for communication breakdown and errors. It can 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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