HVAC projects involving hospitals and medical facilities are typically complex ones. Thermal comfort is an important aspect, but hospitals also need to guarantee the well-being of both patience and personnel occupying the building, plus, cooling for equipment such as MRI machines or lasers.
Thermal comfort and temperature control
Thermal comfort in hospitals and medical facilities is as important as in other applications. Patients recovering from health problems need the best possible thermal comfort. That makes temperature and humidity control very important in these facilities.
Hospitals are among the buildings undergoing strong opposite variable loads during the year. That mostly happens because of surgical rooms, where the cooling or heating demand is independent from the season.
In fact, medical facilities may require different temperature levels depending on the specific environment. Surgery rooms are often kept colder to make sure surgeons and nurses feel comfortable while performing surgery, as the surgical team may be overheat by gowns, caps, gloves and masks. Once the surgery is done, though, HVAC systems need to quickly recover heat and raise the temperature as soon as surgery is completed.
Another reason why perfect temperature control is crucial, then, is that it prevents specialized machines to breakdown. This is the case of machines that are essential to patients’ treatments – lasers and MRI.
An efficient system
As HVAC systems consume almost half of the total energy used in health care facilities, it is important to choose energy efficient HVAC solutions.
When it comes to HVAC systems and their optimization in terms of efficiency, highly efficient inverter screw and centrifugal compressors are a must.
Inverter compressors adjust their effort based on the actual building load demand in different times of the year or moments of the day. That is one of the most important features to ensure energy-efficiency in a facility like a hospital.
Another aspect that needs to be considered when working on making the HVAC system more efficient is the variation in load demand of the building. To make the HVAC system more efficient it is important that the water flow in the HVAC system can vary depending on the actual load demand of the building. A Variable Water Flow system is the perfect solution to this need. It modulates the quantity of water flowing through the system and ensures that pumps work as efficiently as possible. Thus, reduces their impact on energy consumptions.
Then, since HVAC systems for medical facilities usually integrate groups of units, a system control is usually necessary. Daikin Intelligent Chiller Manager (iCM) helps optimizing units’ operations, allowing them to reach their goal with minimum effort, both in terms of energy consumption and mechanically.
Besides those technologies, then, Free Cooling is to consider if climatic conditions allow that.
Hospitals operate 24 hours a day and based on the workload they could decide to rely on full or partial Free Cooling, which, when outdoor temperatures are low enough, would allow chillers to bypass mechanical cooling, using low external air temperatures to assist in chilling water. That chilled water, then, can be used for industrial processes or air conditioning systems.
HVAC systems in hospitals are usually responsible for almost half of the total energy used in the facility. That is why Free cooling, in the right climatic conditions, proves to be a valuable solution to increase the efficiency of the HVAC system and then the buildings’ overall efficiency.
Daikin has recently released a new hydronic free cooling chiller Series with R-32 refrigerant providing cooling capacity from 252 kW to 1012 kW. The new Series will extend the possibilities already offered by the Bluevolution range of products by Daikin, being a perfect solution to meet the needs mentioned above.
Comfort needs to be guaranteed not only from a thermal standpoint, but also from a noise emission perspective. Noise in these facilities can create discomfort for patients who need a quiet environment to heal and recover. For this it is important to create an environment where noise from the HVAC system is reduced to a minimum.
Healthcare facilities usually require huge amounts of fresh air for air exchange, so infections can be prevented. That means ventilation systems are usually operated at high airflow rates to guarantee the right level of air exchange, which on the flip side might make the HVAC system louder.
Therefore, low noise options in the HVAC system are a common choice for these facilities. Also, hospitals usually lack sound-absorbing material, because of the concerns about infection control. In fact, hard and reflective materials are usually preferred as they contrast the proliferation of infectious organisms and are easily cleaned. All that makes the need for a low noise HVAC system even more compelling.
To ensure that medical facilities can offer the quietest possible environment to both personnel and patients, it is important to choose units that can provide the lowest possible noise levels.
Daikin can meet this specific need thanks to chiller, heat pumps and air handling units offering different low noise configurations based on the requirement of the projects.
Another interesting feature that is possible to find on some Daikin chiller Series, is the possibility to further reduce the default noise threshold of the chillers by setting time bands, then allowing facility managers to set the unit noise level to a minimum during specific time bands.
Air quality and filtration
Air quality, as mentioned, is another very important aspect to consider, to control any possibility of airborne transmission in this kind of buildings.
Several studies have been published on this topic.
In fact, well designed ventilation systems can be great tools to minimize possibilities of infection form viruses both among patients and the personnel.
We know patients’ immune system is usually weak and their bodies vulnerable. A well-designed HVAC system introducing properly filtered air from the external environment and simultaneously extracting the internal air, expelling it outside, can help reducing the density of dangerous particles in indoor spaces.
Another interesting aspect that Daikin is very much focused in, in IAQ monitoring. We all know monitoring and tracking not only helps understanding things, but also helps taking actions to make improvements.
In this day and age, when almost anything that surrounds us can be monitored, improving Indoor Air quality and Environmental comfort is the ultimate purpose of the Daikin IEQ sensor.
The IEQ Sensor is an Indoor Environmental Quality sensor, able to monitor and track indoor conditions through a set of indoor air quality parameters, so facility managers can have a clear idea of the Indoor Air Quality status in the building they manage.
Preventive maintenance and reliability
Hospital’s HVAC systems can be very demanding in terms of maintenance. These systems are responsible for maintaining high indoor air quality and providing safe temperatures to occupants. Hence, preventive maintenance is crucial, as downtime can be a huge problem for patients. For these reasons monitoring systems are fundamental. Being able to rely on a system providing information with a great level of detail is extremely important for plant owners. It allows them to plan preventive actions based on real data. So, it allows to avoid extra costs associated with breakdowns and downtime.
During lockdown, then, it became even more important for HVAC plant managers and service engineer to remotely control, monitor and perform diagnostic analysis on HVAC equipment instead of heaving people on site.
Monitoring systems like Daikin on Site allow engineers across the world to monitor, manage and control HVAC systems in real time, directly from the cloud. And this has allowed in many cases service managers to remotely access HVAC equipment during quarantine and take preventive actions without even visiting the site.