Industry News




 

04/16/2013

Could Energy Efficiency Actually Increase Hospital Infection Rates?

 
Could an energy efficient hospital cause safety risks for patients? A new study says yes.

The chance of infection in some hospital wards varies dramatically according to whether the nurses leave the windows open.

A University of Leeds-led team studied airflow in a "Nightingale" ward—a classic hospital ward design that traditionally accommodates two rows of up to 30 beds—by using tracer gases to simulate how airborne infections spread.

They found ventilation in the ward was generally good when windows were left open, keeping the danger of airborne infection low. But risks increased fourfold when the windows were closed.

Lead investigator Dr Cath Noakes, from the University of Leeds' School of Civil Engineering, said: "These wards are still in operation and, although they have often been subdivided into smaller areas with 6-8 beds, their ventilation and structure is still fundamentally the same.

"We found that when you operate them properly, with natural ventilation from the windows, they perform as the [United Kingdom's] Department of Health would like them to. But we also asked what happens in the winter if the windows are closed?

"There is a big push on energy in buildings and it worries many of us who work on indoor air quality. People are being told to seal up their buildings to save energy. We found, if you do that without alternative ventilation systems, you could be increasing the airborne infection risk significantly," Dr Noakes said.

"Some of these wards were designed by the Victorians, and our results show that they knew what they were doing. But there is a danger that we could be adapting our buildings to improve efficiency without thinking how it might affect patients," Dr Noakes said.

The study, conducted jointly with the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in a disused ward at St. Luke's Hospital in Bradford, England in summer 2010, used carbon dioxide as a tracer gas to represent potentially infectious exhaled breath.

Carbon dioxide detectors were positioned where beds might be placed in a working ward and the gas was released by popping carbon-dioxide filled balloons.

"By measuring the concentration of the gas over time, we were able to quantify the exposure at each bed and therefore the potential risk to a patient in that bed," said Laura Pickin, one of the members of the research team. "We were also able to use the same data to measure the overall ventilation rate in the ward."

The UK Department of Health recommends that a ward should be ventilated at six air changes per hour, which means replacing the equivalent volume of air in the room six times every hour.

"When the windows were left open in the ward, we recorded ventilation rates that were either satisfactory or better than the UK standard" said Dr Carl Gilkeson, a Research Fellow who worked on the project. "When the windows were closed, the measured exposure to infection was typically four times higher, equivalent to a ventilation rate of only 1.5 air changes an hour".

The researchers found mechanical ventilation systems to be an effective alternative to natural ventilation. The installation of small extractor fans, similar to a domestic bathroom ventilator, beside each bed had a marked positive effect on ventilation, reducing risks to a comparable level to opening the windows.

The study also looked at the effect of partitioning an old "Nightingale" ward to create single bays, a common solution to the problems of privacy posed by traditional designs. Although partitioning slightly increased risks to people in the immediate vicinity of an infected patient, it reduced risks elsewhere in the ward. The findings indicate that it is feasible to partition wards to create a better patient environment without significantly increasing the overall risk of infection.

"These wards still exist and in the current economic environment they are likely to remain for some time. However, we have shown that they can be modified and that their ventilation can be good if they are managed correctly," Dr Noakes said. "Introducing simple mechanical ventilation to supplement the airflow in the winter, could be an effective approach to ensuring good ventilation year-round, without the energy costs of a full air conditioning system".

Co-author Dr Miller Camargo-Valero, Lecturer in Water and Environmental Engineering at the University of Leeds, said: "These simple, low-energy and low-cost solutions could also be of significant benefit for hospitals in the developing world, particularly in countries where airborne diseases such as tuberculosis are a major concern."

 

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When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.

Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.


Mitsubishi Electric’s H2i R2-Series heat pumps provide 100% heating capacity down to 0° F and simultaneous heating and cooling down to -4° F delivering year-round comfort, regardless of climate zone.

 
04/24/2014

Explore real-time green building data through the newly launched data visualization resource from the USGBC.

04/23/2014

A key part to curbing emissions is working with local and city officials, tenants, and other groups to help make entire communities more sustainable. BOMA International shares the following strategies for greening your facility and community.

04/21/2014

Lighting fixes target the bottom line.

04/16/2014

The U.S. Army plans to start development of a solar array that will provide about 25% of the annual installation electricity requirement of Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

04/15/2014

The EPA's annual greenhouse gas emissions report is now available.

04/14/2014

Are you what some would call a “climate-change denier”? If so, you'll want to read this.

04/10/2014
Los Angeles has remained the top city for ENERGY STAR certified building since 2008, while Washington, D.C. continues to hold onto second place for the fifth consecutive year, according to a new list released by the EPA.
04/09/2014
Green construction has grown massively over a short period of time.
04/07/2014
Field demonstrations of newly proven energy-efficient technologies are yielding valuable results for the U.S. Navy, helping it meet energy goals.
04/03/2014
Building owners in Chicago now have more options when it comes to getting their building energy data verified.
04/01/2014
According to a new report from Eaton, such outages are up 15% in 2013 over 2012 and over half of those surveyed believe that downtime could have been prevented.
03/31/2014
The newly revised ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 105-2014, Standard Methods of Determining, Expressing, and Comparing Building Energy Performance and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, aims to provide a consistent method of measuring, expressing, and comparing the energy performance of buildings.
03/27/2014
Facility managers face an every expanding array of sustainability choices and challenges, but for the next generation of FMs, green practices could be second nature as sustainability literacy enters the K-12 school system.
03/25/2014
While the economic recession explains the decline in sales in 2008 and 2009, it is much less clear why sales have continued to fall.
03/24/2014
University of Washington (UW) scientists have built the thinnest known LED that can be used as a source of light energy in electronics.
03/21/2014
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2378 into law, effectively enacting the state’s first building code.
03/19/2014
In an attempt to improve building energy performance, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has released a web-based tool called the Technology Performance Exchange, or TPEx.
03/18/2014
Could green building practices pose unanticipated life-safety hazards?
03/13/2014
Worried about workplace violence in your facility? Researchers have discovered that “mindfully observing” high-risk employees can avert danger and workplace violence.
03/11/2014
Through the DOE’s Building Energy Codes Program, every dollar the DOE has spent on building energy codes over the past two decades has resulted in $400 in energy cost savings.
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