Proper HVAC maintenance key to IAQ in healthcare facilities

By Healthcare Facilities Today
January 16, 2013

Proper maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems is arguably key to maintaining indoor air quality (IAQ) in any commercial facility, but it takes on an added level of importance in healthcare facilities where infection control and cross contamination are among the concerns. 

As a result of these additional concerns, there are well-established and stringent industry standards for HVAC system design and maintenance in healthcare facilities, and facility managers are responsible for maintaining acceptable IAQ levels. 

In an April article in Health Facilities Management magazine, Justin Dascolir, health care market manager for Phoenix Controls in Acton, Mass., said: 

“Because hospitals are one of the few commercial building types that have such stringent requirements, the definition of how to achieve proper IAQ is pretty straightforward. The hard part is having the right technology and maintenance practices to make sure those requirements are continually upheld over the life of the building." 

Such technology and maintenance practices are further addressed in the article, including the use of some sophisticated monitoring systems that can be linked to building automation systems. The experts cited suggest using the information to track conditions over time to know when changes need to be made to the HVAC system. Regular audits of air handlers and filtration levels are also recommended.  

Tools to aid with HVAC maintenance is also the topic of the article “New Technology, Training Help Improve Indoor Air Quality” in the December issue of Building Operating Management magazine. Author Thomas A. Westerkamp discusses some of the latest sensors, probes and software available to measure and analyze IAQ. 

Westerkamp also suggests that IAQ-trained HVAC technicians are the first line of defense in ensuring high IAQ in a facility:

… “Technicians can look for problems while performing routine preventive maintenance on HVAC systems, ensuring system components — including fans, motors, intake louvers, variable-air-volume controls, filters, and ducts — are clean and operate properly.”

IAQ technician testing and training resources are also identified — namely OSHA and the EPA.

All experts seem to agree that staffing well-trained technicians and staying abreast of the latest technologies is important to developing HVAC maintenance practices that help healthcare facilities meet IAQ requirements. 

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