Designing, retrofitting automation and controls hospitals during COVID
While COVID-19 has changed many aspects in a health care facility, some things remain identical. Learn about building automation systems and controls
- Luis Alvarez Colon, PE, Associate, Page, Austin, Texas
- Allison Graves, PE, Principal, RTM Engineering Consultants, Chicago
- Jeff Hankin, PE, LEED AP, Senior Principal, Stantec, San Diego
- Reed Paitich, PE, Associate, Wold Architects and Engineers, Saint Paul, Minn.
- Keith D. Prata, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Mechanical Department Manager, Bala Consulting Engineers, Boston
- Donald R. Stevens, CHFM, CHC, Director – Health Care Facilities, Lockwood Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN), Austin, Texas
From your experience, what systems within hospitals, health care facilities and medical campus projects are benefiting from automation that previously might not have been?
Reed Paitich: During the current COVID-19 crisis, existing AHUs and variable air volume boxes that have automated controls benefit from the ability to adjust sequences, airflows and pressures within the zones they serve. Owners can easily adjust systems to have fixed air changes and limit the effect of system balancing. Airside economizers can be employed outside optimal outdoor conditions such that the chilled and/or heating plants have sufficient capacity. The most common benefit we’ve seen clients inquire about is the ability to adjust individual room VAV air changes upward, thus allowing reduced time required for airborne-contaminant removal by 99.9% efficiency per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Allison Graves: For some of the older hospital campuses, I see the life safety systems benefitting the most from automation. Fire/smoke dampers, for example, can now be easily integrated into a building automation system, thus allowing for remote testing and recording for local AHJs and CMS and/or joint commission inspections.
Another area that is benefiting is the everyday operating and maintenance activities. Being able to physically store data on specific equipment and provide required maintenance routines into the BAS allows operators to focus on using one system in lieu of multiple management systems.”
Jeff Hankin: Lighting systems, using Power over Ethernet. By leveraging PoE technology, there is a wealth of facility performance and data collection possibilities using light fixtures that popular every area of a facility. Real-time locating systems (RTLS), clinical care modeling and operation flow, laboratory, pharmacy, dry and cold food storage and reorder and supply chain management Clinical Care Modelling and operational flow, laboratory, pharmacy, dry and cold food storage and reorder and supply chain management are all functions or systems that are seeing widely increased employment within health care facilities.
What types of system integration and/or interoperability issues have you overcome for these projects and how did you do so?
Allison Graves: The biggest interoperability issues which have arisen mostly involve the integration of manufacturer equipment into the building automation system. For example, integrating a complex emergency power paralleling system into the BAS comes with a host of issues involving data that won’t transfer, wrong IOM manual information, etc. Resolving these types of issues involves close communication and cooperation with vendors, manufacturers’ representatives, etc.
In what way is the need for more smart technology and features in such buildings affecting your work on these projects?
Allison Graves: The addition of smart technology into our projects is changing the way we design and deliver building automation system drawings. These projects require the involvement of multiple platform vendors and the need to delineate responsibility and clearly define owner desired requirements. Designing an integrated system can take engineering teams just as much time as designing all the base building MEP systems.