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Why improving indoor air quality is critical for healthcare facilities in Singapore by Schneider Electric

Donovan Chua

Even before the start of the pandemic, the Workplace Safety and Health Council of Singapore recognized that “poor air quality in indoor air-conditioned workplaces can result in potential health and comfort problems for occupants [leading to a] decline in work productivity when sickness-absenteeism prevails.” Since that time, the National Environmental Agency released indoor air quality (IAQ) guidelines specifically to address COVID-19 risks. In this 2-part blog, I will discuss solutions for critical facilities where IAQ and COVID-19 are among the highest concerns: hospitals and polyclinics.

The importance of indoor air quality for healthcare

When we think about ‘healthy buildings’, healthcare facilities need to be the healthiest of all. This is due to the high risk of infection for patients.

In the Singapore market, we often talk to our clients in hospitals and polyclinics about common concerns. These include the need for good air quality, good ventilation, comfortable temperature, low noise levels, and natural light. Hospital administrators also want facilities that are sustainable, efficient, resilient, and provide the best experience for staff and patients. However, air quality is top-of-mind, as the current pandemic is setting a new demand for safer and cleaner air. For hospitals, the most critical areas to ensure high air quality is in operation theatres during surgery, and anywhere there is high human traffic, such as waiting areas.

In hospitals today, some facility management teams may not be aware of the need and solutions for making indoor air safer. For example, there may be poor management of the air conditioning (AC) system, including a lack of maintenance for the ducting systems. This can be complicated by having different filter requirements in different areas.

Some of these issues can be addressed in simple ways with the appropriate services. An existing infrastructure may also need modification to meet the new demand for cleaner, safer air. In such cases, the facility manager may consider this work as being too complex or negatively impacting hospital services. However, proper planning and technologies can minimize downtime and disruption.

Let us look at some of the newest IAQ solutions.

Applications for UV-C air sterilization to improve air quality

Ultraviolet (UV-C) light used for air sterilization is effective in eliminating or inactivating micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, molds, and other pathogens. UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) technology comes in two types with specific applications, and both work without affecting airflow rate and noise level.

  • For duct-type fan coils – UVGI LEDs are designed for fan coils, for example in air ducts for individual rooms and any other critical areas in the hospitals. In this application, UVGI achieves advanced germicidal efficiency at all temperature ranges with a high intensity, point source output. It is fast to install with only a small additional space requirement and can interlock with the fan coil. The compact size enables design flexibility for small and medium space installations and is also easy to maintain.

  • For air handling units (AHU) – UVGI lamps are designed for AHU coils to treat circulated air. In this application, they effectively reduce mold, bacteria, and viruses in the air chamber and cooling coil surface while also sterilizing the drain pan. It provides high power, 360-degree irradiation, helping maintain cooling coil cleanliness and heat transfer efficiency while improving AHU performance and energy savings. It can also help reduce cooling coil maintenance frequency.

To choose and install the best UV solution, the solution provider should first assess conditions at the site and then determine your required UV light dosage. They will prepare a design with the appropriate UV product, sizing, and the required installation method. This should include a design for the interlock safety mechanism. Then arrangements can be made for efficient installation, testing, and commissioning.

Note that some precautions are necessary when using UV light irradiation, as too much UV exposure can harm eyesight and skin. Therefore, proper warning labels should be used on access panels or doors to indicate the presence of a UV-C hazard. In addition, the activation switches (main switch) should be clearly labeled to prevent accidental activation by unauthorized persons. A policy should also be made to never enter the plenum when UV-C LEDs are activated and that anyone servicing a UV-C LED should wear appropriate PPE.

Further protection can include be added in the form of a door safety switch (applicable to AHU only) to deactivate the UV-C system when opening any access point, and an airflow switch/fan control terminal to deactivate the UV-C system when there is no airflow detected.

In my next post we will have a look at other technologies for making indoor air quality safer, including antimicrobial coating, ‘Streamer’ technology, and the importance of managing ventilation using automated monitoring and control.

Clean air quality and beyond: helping healthcare succeed

As a certified EcoXpert partner, Daikin is supported by the healthcare expertise and solutions of Schneider Electric. Daikin has deep knowledge of the essential healthcare services market and has provided technology and service solutions to many hospitals and clinics across the regions that we serve. These needs extend beyond IAQ to include energy management and building management. Here are two examples.

  • Polyclinic in Ang Mo Kio town – A Schneider Electric solution monitors and controls M&E services equipment, comfort (VAV box Control and temperature), and energy consumption. The system also includes Chiller Plant Optimization System, Green Mark certification, SMS paging system and redundant hot server standby to enhance reliability.

  • Hospital in Alexandra Road – A Schneider Electric BMS system monitors and controls chiller plant equipment, helping the facility team prepare for Green Mark compliance certification.

Schneider Electric’s open, end-to-end, IoT-enabled EcoStruxure solutions are fast to implement and adaptable to any healthcare environment. They give facility teams greater visibility and insights to power and building conditions, automate and improve performance, and help ensure patient safety and comfort.

To learn more

Daikin – including our subsidiary BMS Engineering – is a total building lifecycle solution provider and leading system integrator for BMS, facilities management, energy efficiency, and IAQ solutions in the Singapore region. To learn more, visit the Daikin Singapore website.

EcoXperts are the Enablers of Buildings of the Future

The EcoXpert Partner Program is unique in its industry and made up of a best-in-class global ecosystem of expertise. Trained and certified by Schneider Electric, EcoXperts are the implementation arms of EcoStruxure and Wiser all over the world.

Buildings of the Future is about delivering solutions for the sustainable, resilient, hyper-efficient, and people-centric buildings that our customers need. For our EcoXpert partners, this unveils immense growth opportunities through the transition to end-to-end portfolio sales that will resolve our customers’ most critical needs. For our shared customers, this means that together with our EcoXpert partners, we will drive the building industry transformation and help our customers survive and thrive today – and tomorrow.

Visit EcoXpert to learn more. Discover Buildings of the Future.

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