In a global economy where air travel and commerce extend around the world, human disease can be easily transmitted through airborne delivery, contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces, and via clothing and household articles that come from other nations. Evidence of the spread of highly infectious disease occasionally appears in the news media, usually resulting in some alarm for the general public and the healthcare industry. Recent cases include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Tuberculosis (TB), Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), and others.
The healthcare industry, particularly local hospitals, is the first line of defense in identifying and treating patients. It is the responsibility of these caregivers to not only diagnose the disease, but also contain serious strains of bacterial and viral pathogens from spreading to others within the hospital, and the public at large. Proper facility and ventilation design is a key factor in addressing this problem. Applying the principles of directional airflow, combined with filtration and sanitation techniques, is an effective way to reduce the spread of airborne infectious agents.
Healthcare ventilation has always contained regulatory design criteria to ensure health and safety, as well as to reduce the risk of infection control. Along with the cost associated with meeting statutes, regulations, standards, and codes; healthcare facilities face additional financial challenges from other areas. Corporate budget constraints, liability costs, insurance costs, employee turnover, and increased operational costs to name a few. During times of construction, the budget may be challenged by delays, changes in regulatory criteria, increases in material costs, and design changes.
In addition to ensuring that components and systems meet regulatory requirements, healthcare facility ventilation design requires additional attention and detail to planning of space layout, air-balance, temperature control, humidity control, space pressurization, communication technology, forecasting maintenance costs, and assessment of energy demand in order to achieve maximum design benefit with effective cost.
When considering these factors, designing healthcare ventilation to just “meet” standards becomes an obsolete and risky approach. Meeting regulatory compliance is simply not enough in today's’ market. New approaches to facility ventilation design are necessary to achieve owner satisfaction and several owner motivators should be considered when designing effective and efficient healthcare ventilation.
Snapshot of the Healthcare Industry:
The business motivators for ventilation in healthcare are infection control, energy savings, maintenance-free operation, pandemic readiness, and the flexibility to control ventilation throughout the facility for varying uses over the lifetime for the building. These subjects can be grouped into four main topics important to running a hospital:
- Patient Healing
- Liability & Risk
- Operational Cost Reduction
- Construction & Renovation risk
These main topics will be discussed next in more detail, starting with Patient Healing motivators.
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