AABC Member Cody Shook, TBE, CxA, Precision Flow Engineering; Jeremy Johnson, TBE, CxA, American Testing Inc.; and Brian Venn, TBE, CxA Mechanical Testing, Inc. share an article on Air-Balancing Compliance for Critical Spaces.
Most healthcare facilities managers are familiar with the procedures involved with the annual testing carried out by The Joint Commission (JCAHO), Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP), Del Norske Veritas (DNV) or other local agencies. This can be a stressful time for even the most vigilant and proactive managers. Our experience has shown that the healthcare facilities that have the most trouble-free compliance inspections are those that retain an Associated Air Balancing Council (AABC) testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) agency to preemptively measure and audit their systems annually.
Managers need to be proactive about checking room pressures. To take it a step further, healthcare facilities should also make it a point to repair, replace or otherwise remediate any deficiencies in the critical rooms discovered by the TAB agency. These repairs can range from the addition of a door sweep or bead of caulk to a coil cleaning or full air handler replacement.
Deficiencies and failures in room compliance are not always related to equipment. Unforeseen issues can arise during or after construction that are related to the architecture of the building. Elevator shafts, exterior corridors, automatic doors and ceiling installations all can play a vital role in the way room pressure responds and stabilizes in a dynamic environment. Isolating these issues takes experience, patience, and sometimes repeated testing, but there generally is a solution with the right collaborators in place.
Compliance testing for critical spaces starts with identifying the types of spaces that are assessed on a frequency determined by local and national standards. In the past, typical compliance testing consisted of operating rooms and tuberculosis isolation rooms. Over the years, it has expanded to include all types of cleanrooms, such as airborne infection isolation, protective environment rooms, operating rooms with sterile cores, critical-care rooms, labor and delivery, procedure rooms, laboratory spaces, sterile processing, morgue and ancillary rooms.