Medical Buildings Present Unique HVAC System Needs
Medical facilities must be heated and cooled like other commercial facilities, but they also have HVAC requirements that are unique to a building where patients are examined, conditions are diagnosed, and medical treatments are provided. If installing an HVAC system in a doctor’s office, specialized treatment facility, outpatient clinic, or other type of non-hospital medical building, one must take these factors into consideration:
Types of Medical Buildings
For the purpose of this discussion, we’re defining medical buildings as a structures separate from large-scale hospitals or treatment facilities. They usually house private-practice doctors or medical groups. They can house specialized diagnostic and treatment equipment, such as imaging or dialysis machines and physical therapy equipment. They may be multi-story facilities, but are not as large as a hospital. Individual doctors, practitioners or medical teams are usually considered independent tenants of the building, with many different types of medical specialties being represented in one facility.
HVAC System Design Considerations
- Multi- versus single-story buildings: A medical facility with several floors will usually require a zoned central heating and cooling system. This type of HVAC design will allow individual offices to effectively control the temperature in their own areas without affecting any adjacent or nearby offices. Smaller buildings of one or two stories can be serviced with one or more individual HVAC systems, with one unit dedicated to each floor or specific zone.
- Specialized medical procedure needs: HVAC system design should accommodate the specialized needs of medical practitioners and their patients. While this may not be possible during the design and construction of a generalized facility, if you don’t know who the tenants will be, you can count on a few factors to be similar in most situations. For example, reception areas will need plenty of lighting and easily adjustable temperature controls. Examination and treatment rooms will need individual zoned temperature control to accommodate patients who must disrobe for treatment or examination. The examination and treatment rooms must also be kept at a temperature that is as acceptable to medical staff. Rooms where specialized treatments — such as dialysis or chemotherapy — occur must be zoned to allow for quick temperature changes and individualized control of heating and cooling.
- Ventilation is crucial: A medical facility must be properly ventilated to provide good levels of indoor air quality, prevent accumulation of odors, and prevent the onset of sick building syndrome. The ventilation system should be designed to allow closing of dampers and other ventilation systems for areas that are unoccupied.
- Energy-efficiency measures can improve indoor comfort while decreasing utility bills: All reasonable steps should be taken to ensure energy efficiency of the structure. This includes creating a well-sealed building envelope to prevent energy loss and air leaks, using programmable thermostats and temperature setpoints to reduce HVAC operation at night when the facility is closed, and maintaining control of ventilation and dampers to prevent infiltration of contaminated outdoor air and loss of indoor conditioning. Ensure ductwork systems are well designed for the space and are thoroughly sealed and insulated to prevent energy loss.
- Look for ways to save energy and money during construction or renovation: When designing a new medical building or renovating an older one, install high-efficiency HVAC equipment where possible. These newer systems can significantly reduce the amount of fuel or electricity needed for heating and cooling, while dramatically decreasing monthly utility expenses. Consider the merits of a thermal storage system if the building absorbs considerable amounts of heat during the day. This type of system captures and stores heat and uses it for nighttime temperature control.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Commercial, Industrial and Residential settings. For more information on HVAC system design for a medical facility contact Sobieski.