HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is an essential part of residential structures such as homes, industrial and office buildings as hospitals and skyscrapers, apartment buildings and hotels. In such environments, safe and healthy building conditions need to be regulated in terms of temperature and humidity through the use of fresh air. Therefore, through the use of HVAC, these environmental regulations are achieved. HVAC is a system design that uses several technologies to control the humidity, temperature, and air purity in enclosed spaces (Bhatia). The system’s primary goal is to ensure thermal comfort and better or acceptable air quality.
The system design is a branch of mechanical engineering that operates on the principles of thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics. HVAC’s design principles encompass the basic theory of system operation and factors that determine the size of equipment installed in the system. Over the years, air conditioning has seen a lot of change from only cooling a space to the complete control of other factors (Banse). This paper argues the importance of the HVAC design, especially in hospital and healthcare facilities.
HVAC Design in Healthcare
An interesting fact about HVAC is that it differs depending on the facility type it is set to serve. For healthcare facilities, HVAC is not just about ventilation, comfort, and heating. Instead, it encompasses ensuring the creation of a safe environment for individuals. In this case, the HVAC design is very different as it also entails restricting the movement of air between and in the different departments that exist in the facility (International Health Facility Guidelines). Compared to other building types, healthcare facilities require different air conditioning structures. This is due to the high risk of contamination that can occur in the facility through things such as odor, viruses, and microorganisms. Different departments in these types of facilities also require different temperatures and humidity. Therefore, in this case, the HVAC design should be sophisticated in such a way that it minimizes the risk of pathogen transmission to ensure an environment safe for patients and staff alike.
Moreover, patients in the facility are usually susceptible to abrupt temperature changes and uncontrollable conditions. As a result of their illness, they may not have the ability to get heavy clothing or a blanket for cold temperatures. This highlights the necessity for local adjustment or individual room control as the patients need it to be comfortable as well as to aid with their recovery process (Gary & Peters). Treatment areas such as operating rooms and nursing unit patient rooms have a set standard of required ranges. Likewise, the system’s performance outside these ranges can be desired based on the local conditions and practices.
According to the healthcare occupancy codes, patient care and treatment areas need to be continuously ventilated by connecting the air supply systems to an emergency power source. This will ensure that the entire ventilation process continues to take place despite unprecedented factors such as power outages (International Health Facility Guidelines). In areas where the climate levels are lower than average, healthcare facilities need to find an alternative backup solution to ensure heating does not fail whenever one of the sources of heat is out of service.
On the other hand, other staff members in the facility, such as labs, might require lower ranges of ventilation. This is because of the extra layers of clothing for their protection (Gary & Peters). Rooms for pharmacy preps may also require low rates of temperature and higher rates of air changing. Through these guidelines, the construction of hospitals and outpatient facilities can be done effectively so as to meet the required design airflow and temperature criteria effectively.
Figure 1: Indoor Air Temperature and Humidity Control Through HVAC
Indoor Air Temperature and Humidity Control Through HVAC
Components of a HVAC System
The HVAC design system is made up of several elements, including boilers, chillers, and furnaces. These are the most crucial elements of the system. The boiler is responsible for generating steam through boiling water. The steam produced is then used to generate electricity or produce other operational tasks in manufacturing and industrial organizations. Designing and maintaining such systems requires expert engineers. This will ensure the safety and protection of the heavy amount of investment put in the boiler. Therefore, this part of the system ensures the release of hot air, meaning that it helps regulate temperature.
Another critical component is furnaces, as these are the main drivers of heat. They are used to heat air in the HVAC design and ensure the system is able to provide room temperature regulation by ventilating it with hot air. Lastly, chillers are composed of cooling towers that operate through cooling water by putting it directly into contact with air. Immediately the water comes into contact with the air, evaporation takes place, and then afterwards, the cool water is circulated back into the system to cool the dehumidifying air.
HVAC System Design Considerations
One critical question to ask when implementing HVAC whether the design chosen suits the facility. Different facilities have different HVAC designs suited for them. In this case, medical facilities that have different floors will require a zoned central cooling and heating system. Therefore, using this HVAC system will allow the offices within the same building to control temperatures in their area while not affecting the neighboring offices. In a building with two stories, two HVAC systems can be used, placing one on each floor (Sobieski). Thus, HVAC system design can be used in buildings to balance the temperature in different offices, making it unique in its application. It gives the individual offices the privilege to moderate their temperature.
Additionally, when utilizing the HVAC system, one considers the specialized medical procedure needs. The design ought to meet the needs of the patients and the health practitioners. Achieving this is a bit complicated, as knowing the exact needs of the people before the construction is challenging (Sobieski). However, some aspects of the design are common in most buildings. For instance, the examination and treatment room need to be adjustable such that the temperature can be controlled in case a patient needs to disrobe for some examination. Hence, the design may assume certain factors during construction since most of the factors are common in different medical buildings.
Another consideration when using the HVAC system design is ventilation. In each building under construction, the design should consider the flow of air in and out of the facility. In hospitals, this will avoid the accumulation of odors and the onset of sick building syndrome (Sobieski). Moreover, the ventilation system ought to be designed to evade hindrances and other ventilation systems for areas not yet occupied. Therefore, the HVAC system design considers the airflow of a room to accommodate patients and health practitioners well without creating an environment where they may feel the air around them is contaminated.
Moreover, using the HVAC system design, one should consider the energy efficiency measures to improve indoor comfort while decreasing utility bills. This involves creating a well-sealed building to limit air leaks and energy loss (Sobieski). It can be achieved by using programmable temperature and thermostats setpoints so that the operation of HVAC can be reduced when the facility is closed during the night. Thus, when using the design, it should be put into considerations ways of improving the facility’s efficiency.
Furthermore, when considering using HVAC, people should look for ways to save money during construction or renovation. During the construction or renovation of a building, a high-efficiency HVAC should be used. Using high-efficient HVAC equipment tremendously reduces the cost of fuel and electricity required for cooling and heating (Sobieski). In cases where the building absorbs lots of heat during the day, one should consider using a thermal storage unit that can store the heat absorbed in the day and utilize it at night. Therefore, the consideration when using HVAC should be to save energy as much as possible by utilizing better HVAC equipment.
When constructing a building, it is also essential to use experienced engineers who will consider the specific requirements of the building as guidelines to design the system. Before the air can be heated or cooled, it has to first go through a number of filters that will reduce materials such as dust. Once this is done, the air is allowed to circulate throughout the entire facility and back outside. For large buildings, this means that they will have vast amounts of cooling and heating zones, among other things (Gary & Peters). This highlights the importance of finding a professional to do the HVAC design as a failure to do so might lead to inadequate systems that are either too big or too small in other ways. If not appropriately implemented, HVAC can cause premature breakdowns that require consistent maintenance or unnecessary electricity consumption.
Another interesting fact about the system is that it saves energy during the day; therefore, it is not expensive. In the event that an organization finds their system to be expensive, a critical question to ask oneself is what is making the HVAC costly. It is primarily through lousy design, maintenance or installation that the HVAC becomes too costly. However, the cost can also originate from unnecessary energy consumption or constant repairs of the system. Thus, investigating the root cause of high costs from the system will go a great mile in solving the issue.
The HVAC has proven to be significant in the hospitals. Its components make it suitable for its function and importance to healthcare organizations. Since it regulates temperature and ensures air circulation, hospitals have become manageable, making patients and health practitioners comfortable. Learning the considerations required when implementing the tool allows individuals to be aware of the equipment’s performance and how to utilize it. Interestingly, HVAC has shown to be an energy saver and cost-efficient when using it. This makes it easy to manage and benefit from its performance.
Banse, Patrick.J. “HVAC Design Requirements for Medical Spaces.” Health Facilities Management, 2015, Web.
Bhatia, A. “HVAC Design for Healthcare Facilities.” Continuing Education and Development. Web.
Gary Hamilton P.E., LEED, and Sarah Peters. “Mechanical Engineering Design for Hospitals – the Must Know.” Engineered Systems Magazine RSS, Engineered Systems Magazine, 2019, Web.
International Health Facility Guidelines. Part E Engineering – International Health Facility Guidelines. 2020, Web.
Sobieski. “Medical Buildings Present Unique HVAC System Needs.” Sobieski Services | DE, NJ, PA, MD, 2020, Web.