When working to improve the air quality within hospitals for the sake of patient health and safety, hospital facility managers must consider their buildings’ designs, according to Health Facilities Management Magazine.
Building designs should include HVAC and air filtration systems, which are proven to reduce certain airborne contaminants. Contaminants might also include indoor gas emissions, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from furniture and building materials.
There is also another danger that can be controlled with air cleaners: infections. Air filtration systems can reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections at hospitals and other health care facilities, Consulting – Specifying Engineering Magazine said.
Prevent infections with air purification
Hospital-acquired infections include respiratory illnesses caused by viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens, according to Medscape.
Research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has shown a connection between ventilation rates and respiratory illness. Because people can transmit bacteria and viruses into the air, other patients, staff and visitors are at risk of contracting common respiratory illnesses simply by inhaling these pathogens. Studies have indicated low ventilation rates are associated with an increase in respiratory illness at the sites where research was conducted, which included a nursing home. Adequate ventilation may prevent these types of illnesses and hospitals may want to evaluate how to best combat impurities in the air.
Michael Lentz, associate at RMF Engineering in Baltimore, described different HVAC techniques to control hospital-acquired infections, saying hospitals could implement pressurization requirements for program areas located inside the hospital as well as establish filtration and separation for these programs.
“For example, applying 100 percent exhaust to the emergency department waiting rooms,” Lentz said, according to Consulting – Specifying Engineering Magazine. “Any airborne infection isolation room exhaust is treated with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. All critical spaces, such as operating rooms, recovery areas, and sterile processing departments, are equipped with return or exhaust air terminal units in order to maintain correct pressurization within the program area, even if there is a loss of supply air to the space.”
Richard Hermans, director of training and advanced applications at McQuay International, said in Health Facilities Management Magazine HVAC technology allows hospital facility managers to have increased control over infections and cross contamination in addition to managing temperature and humidity. To help enhance indoor air quality, Hermans said managers should consider four factors:
1. Filtration. Since pathogenic organisms that cause hospital-acquired infections are in the form of particles, filters will be able to lower the presence of these pathogens.
2. Air quality. Air quality standards describe the particular volumes of outside and re-circulated air needed to cut the chance of pathogens being transmitted to patients.
3. Monitoring and control of equipment remotely. Hermans said airflows should be tracked on a regular basis to measure for filtration performance.
4. Airflow patterns. The flow of air inside clinical spaces is crucial along with its level of cleanliness.
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