Airborne infection isolation rooms, or AII rooms, are essential in providing a safe environment for healthcare workers and patients. For an isolation room to be effective, the mechanical engineer must be familiar with the specific requirements for designing these types of spaces. RTM’s engineers possess the mechanical expertise and knowledge of the latest Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines required to create safe AII rooms.
There are two types of isolation rooms: negative pressure rooms–designed for patients with infectious diseases like tuberculosis (TB), and positive pressure rooms–designed for patients with compromised immune systems. Both require a minimum of 12 air changes per hour. In negative pressure rooms, more air is mechanically removed from the room than supplied to it, while the opposite is true for positive pressure rooms.
For AII rooms designed before 1994, the minimum air change per hour was the only requirement, and rooms could switch between positive and negative pressure as the situation demanded. But revised standards recommended by the CDC after a TB outbreak in 1994 require that rooms are either positive or negative—not used for both—and maintain a strict .01” W.C (254 mmHg) negative or positive pressure differential in addition to the required 12 air changes.
The more stringent guidelines stress the importance of utilizing an engineering team that has experience in designing the mechanical systems for AII rooms. Collaboration between the mechanical engineer and architect early in the design process is essential in avoiding issues that may arise relating to the placement of supply and exhaust locations and maintaining the standard pressure differential.
Ideally, air is supplied at the ceiling above the foot of the patient’s bed and exhausted on the wall near the floor at the head of the bed. This arrangement maximizes air mixing and promotes an airflow that moves clean air across the patient and caregiver zone, and removes the contaminated air closest to the source. Since this arrangement differs from the typical patient room, care has to be taken to avoid any obstructions, such as furniture or supply carts, from affecting the air flow.
Additionally, to maintain adequate negative pressure, the room needs to be well sealed and the design must accommodate other external factors, such as elevators, doors, or windows that may produce fluctuating air currents. If the room is not properly designed or constructed, more airflow may be required to achieve the desired pressure differential, further taxing hospital resources and increasing energy costs.
The mechanical elements that make for an effective isolation room will deteriorate over time, and staff may not be properly equipped to deal with monitoring these elements. Periodic and ongoing assessment of AII rooms is necessary to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and other at-risk patients. A study completed by the Institutional Consultation Services, a component of the Francis J. Curry National Tuberculosis Center, found that many easily detectable deficiencies in isolation rooms went unnoticed, because engineers with this expertise were not brought in for inspection.
RTM’s staff members have the knowledge to effectively design new AII rooms and provide assessments of the mechanical systems in existing isolation rooms to create a safe environment for patients and hospital staff. For more information on how RTM can bring value to your healthcare project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.