How Healthcare Facilities Are Improving IAQKevin Dugan
Ductwork’s impact on indoor air quality makes audit and repair a top commercial building project
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In the wake of COVID-19, healthcare facility managers, in particular, are looking at more ways to improve the health and safety in commercial buildings, including indoor air quality (IAQ). And a building’s HVAC system is one of the primary ways to improve IAQ, according to the CDC.
With this in mind, Aeroseal’s recent webinar, How Healthcare facilities are improving IAQ in a COVID-19 world, looked at the process and technology being employed globally by some of the world’s leading medical institutions to improve airflow and ventilation.
Leaky Ducts Ruin the Air We Breathe
Leaks cause poor ventilation and allow contaminants to infiltrate ductwork and circulate throughout the building. In addition to decreasing IAQ, this creates indoor comfort problems and increases energy costs.
Common signs of poor ventilation in commercial buildings include:
- Persistent mold and mildew
- Chronic odor issues
- Higher worker illness and absenteeism rates
- Noisy exhaust fans
- Uncomfortable, uneven temperatures
- Higher than normal energy bills
Facility managers often try to address these issues with a mix of filtration, UV lights, and duct cleaning. But without eliminating the leaks, they are simply addressing the symptom and not the cause of these issues.
Four-Phase Process Ensures a Sustainable Solution
To see an impact on IAQ, Aeroseal takes a four-phased approach to improve an HVAC system’s airflow and ventilation.
Phase One: Audit & Evaluation
This visual audit and inspection assess the condition of your entire HVAC system, including ductwork, to identify potential issues. This includes how to minimize disruption during the sealing process.
Phase Two: Test & Plan
To determine the amount of leakage in the ductwork system, Aeroseal’s team blocks off registers including ventilation shafts, heating and cooling shafts, and other ductwork, to pressurize the system.
With a thorough understanding of the building’s HVAC system leakage, a project timeline and plan are created. This includes energy modeling to identify energy savings and payback.
Phase Three: Repair, Clean, Sanitize, and Seal Ductwork
Making sure the duct system doesn’t need repairs is critical to ensuring project results, this includes VAV or register box connectors, disconnected ductwork, canvas connectors, diffusers, and registers.
Using our non-invasive technology, we seal the ductwork to ensure the building’s HVAC system can operate at peak efficiency. The video below shows how duct leaks are sealed in commercial buildings.
Phase Four: Project Measurement and Verification
The Aeroseal software used to measure duct leakage monitors leak reduction in realtime, as it’s applied. Once a project’s leakage goals are achieved, the software verifies and records the results. A certificate showing the leakage before and after the process is then issued for the facility’s records.
Now all issues impacting IAQ are addressed and, more importantly, IAQ can be sustained.
Aeroseal Duct Sealing Technology: Proven Safe & Non-Toxic
Created at the Berkeley Lab with partial funding from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, the process and sealant are safe and non-toxic.
In fact, Aeroseal’s duct sealing technology has been in the field for 20 years with more than 150,000 projects sealed globally. As a result, it has been applied to a variety of building types, from homes to commercial buildings, including hotels, hospitals, office buildings, military bases, universities, prisons, and government facilities.
The sealant is water-based and primarily made of a vinyl acetate polymer found in hair spray and chewing gum. Independent lab testing shows an extremely low concentration of VOC off-gassing occurs during the sealing process. However, in about two hours, the sealant is dry and there is no off-gassing. No sealant particles or odors are left in the HVAC system or building. The sealant is UL certified and in compliance with ASTM and NFPA 90A standards.
HVAC Contractors Share Experiences from the Field
As part of the webinar, industry professionals contributed their firsthand experience with Aeroseal.
“To minimize impact on a building’s operations, we can apply Aeroseal at a time where the least amount of disruption will occur,” says Joe St. Pierre, Sales and Project Manager with Airways Systems. “In 24/7 facilities like hospitals and prisons, we make sure occupants are temporarily moved to other areas of the building. This is mainly because we shut down the air handling unit during the process.”
Sealant is injected in precise amounts based on software feedback throughout the process. Sealant escaping into the facility is minimal and thoroughly addressed.
“We’re applying the sealant inside the HVAC system,” said Tom Holmes, Senior Project Manager with Aspen Environmental Services. “This minimizes the potential for sealant particles to escape into the facility. We also use scrubber fans and negative air machines during the application to make sure this isn’t a problem. And we’ve blocked off the registers, VAV, air handling unit and diffusers to ensure no HVAC components are damaged.”
How Four Healthcare Facilities Impact IAQ with Duct Sealing
The webinar also looked at four leading medical facilities improved their IAQ using Aeroseal duct sealing. Click each facility name to learn more about its specific application.
Nemours Children’s Clinic, Jacksonville, FL
After decades of additions and extensions, the cause of this facility’s IAQ issues couldn’t be pinpointed. Aeroseal was used to reduce duct leakage by 85 percent and to stop the spread of nosocomial infections.
Miami Valley Hospital South, Dayton OH
The odors and lack of ventilation in this space prompted HVAC maintenance that showed duct leakage was a clear issue. Ducts were sealed in one day, reducing leakage by 34 percent and payback was achieved in three years.
UCSF Medical Center at Mt. Zion, San Francisco, CA
The opening of a new pharmacy was being held up until its ventilation hoods could meet requirements. Duct sealing reduced leakage by 96 percent to ensure the ventilation hoods met codes and the facility opened up on time.
University of Ottowa Heart Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
When facility managers detected an isotope created in their labs had migrated to an adjacent wing of the building, they knew duct leakage was a critical issue. After one day of sealing leaky ductwork, the hospital’s issue was solved
To access the webinar, click here to access the full-length recording.