ASHRAE Publishes Revised Standard on Ventilation in Health Care Facilities

ATLANTA, Ga. — In some sense, designers of healthcare facilities must follow the same creed as healthcare professionals: to first do no harm. A newly revised standard for ventilation of healthcare facilities can help designers by providing the minimum requirements for the design of ventilation systems for healthcare facilities to provide environmental control for comfort, as well as infection and odor control.

ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Standard 170-2013, Ventilation of Health Care Facilities, was written by ASHRAE and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. When the standard was first published in 2008, it was the first American National Standards Institute standard in the nation to specifically address ventilation in healthcare facilities.

“Without high-quality ventilation in healthcare facilities, patients, healthcare workers and visitors can become exposed to contaminants through normal respiration of particles in the air,” said Paul Ninomura, chair of the Standard 170 committee. “Ventilation systems and designs for healthcare facilities are intended to provide a comfortable environment for patients, healthcare workers and visitors while diluting, capturing and exhausting airborne contaminants including potentially infectious airborne agents.”

Standard 170 has been in constant maintenance since 2008 and the past five years have provided an opportunity to review and further improve it. The revised standard features updates, changes and clarifications dealing with humidity, ducted returns, recirculating room units and duct lining, to name just a few refinements.

One trend that almost all classes of buildings have seen on the rise lately has been energy efficiency. Healthcare facilities can be energy extensive buildings and energy recovery can provide significant savings. Provisions for the application of energy recovery are now specifically addressed in 170-2013. However, as the standard stipulates, if energy recovery systems are utilized, the systems cannot allow for any cross-contamination of exhaust air back to the supply airstream. Run-around coils are just one example of a system that is permitted, according to Ninomura.

The standard also addresses some issues that may reduce costs to build and operate healthcare facilities. Standard 170 allows relative humidities as low of 20 percent for some rooms. This may result in smaller capacity of humidification equipment, lower operating costs and reduced maintenance costs. The standard permits some use of plenum returns in outpatient facilities, which in turn may result in lower construction cost and operating costs.

Additionally, some hospitals are interested in utilizing displacement ventilation to reduce operating costs. The standard addresses the application of displacement ventilation within patient rooms.

Poorly ventilated healthcare facilities may increase the concentration of airborne contaminants, including fungi or mold, which may cause allergic responses in even healthy workers and occupants. Considering the various occupancies and patient populations, great care must be taken in the design of healthcare ventilation systems.

The cost of ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Approved Standard 170-2013, Ventilation of Health Care Facilities, is $58 ($48, ASHRAE members). To order, contact ASHRAE customer contact center at 1-800-527-4723 (United States and Canada) or 404-636-8400 (worldwide) or visit www.ashrae.org/bookstore.

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Posted January 13, 2014

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