If you’re looking to build a resource library for your staff and contractors, you will find some of the many educational materials available today to be invaluable. From theory to practice, and from design to full implementation of an HVAC system, here are just a few resources that offer countless tips and techniques for both managers and technicians:
Healthcare facilities comprise approximately 17 percent of our entire national GDP, an astonishing number that highlights their significant impact on our entire economy. As Eco-Structure magazine points out, that number also means that the healthcare industry is in “a good position to drive market transformation to safer, healthier materials.”
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a big concern for all facilities managers and builders, but it’s especially critical in a healthcare environment. Poor ventilation and the presence of contaminants in a facility are the two main sources of compromised IAQ, and both are typically found in just about every hospital and clinic in the country.
Poor Ventilation and IAQ: Is “Green Building” Hazardous to Human Health?
A 2010 study conducted by Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), a non-partisan, nonprofit policy and research organization, warns that the drive towards LEED certification and energy-efficient construction may be “insufficient to protect human health.” EHHI points out that LEED certification prioritizes energy efficiency, energy conservation technologies and designs. This often results in tightly sealed facilities with reduced ventilation and the use of questionable chemical products and materials. Although the protection of IAQ from hazardous chemicals is a consideration in obtaining LEED certification, energy efficiency is weighted much more heavily in the final determination.
Presence of Contaminants: When 24/7 Can Be a Bad Thing
The lack of proper ventilation can worsen the other major source of poor IAQ: contaminants. When you think of hospital contamination, you may think of infections from viruses and bacteria that are endemic in a hospital setting. However, other significant sources of contaminants include pollutants from building materials, cleaning products, furnishings and fabrics, carpeting, equipment and hazardous waste.
Since hospitals are usually open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the cleaning is almost always done when patients, staff and visitors are around. Many hospitals have established “green cleaning programs” and have shifted away from pollutant-emitting materials and products to greener alternatives, without impacting infection control efforts. Many have also developed entryway systems that reduce the amount of soil that enters a building and HVAC system from the feet of entering visitors and staff.
How HVAC Impacts Healing in a Healthcare Setting
Intelligent, healing-focused construction and design can significantly improve the IAQ of healthcare facilities, but HVAC in particular can play a big role in ensuring that building occupants – from patients to visitors to staff – aren’t made more susceptible to infections and illnesses because of poor IAQ. Designing HVAC ventilation systems that control air flow and increase air cleaning can reduce or eliminate the distribution of harmful contaminants and pathogens, especially in high-risk environments such as emergency rooms.