Why Fan Wall Retrofits Can Be Critical for Hospitals

It's like an organ transplant for a building.
Updated: Mon, 03/27/2017 - 14:56

Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

Within the critical world of health care, what happens when the patient is the hospital building?  How do Healthcare Facility Directors & Construction Managers make needed changes to their aging buildings, while ensuring no downtime or loss of comfort to their patients?

When it came time for large heathcare providers such as Group Health Cooperative, Swedish Medical Centers, Providence Health & Services, and Virginia Mason Medical Center, to make system upgrades, they turned to MacDonald-Miller as their building’s doctor of choice to get inside the guts of their mechanical systems and perform a fan wall retrofit.  

We talked with Ruben Cañas, Project Director of Healthcare Construction, to find out more about why fan wall retrofits can be critical for hospitals.

What does a building operation look like?

We’ve performed multiple fan wall retrofits, which can be likened to a major organ transplant. Our first operation of this nature consisted of a team of construction specialists retrofitting Critical Supply & Exhaust fans for a local hospital.  Imagine dismantling and removing two aging fans the size of cargo vans, and then replacing it by building a floor-to-ceiling wall of fans.

The extensive planning and field execution resulted in the operation, through back-to-back shifts, taking an incredible 23 hours. 

What is the impact?

Most of the replacements we have performed are on aging fans that are well beyond their service life expectancy and are a risk to the hospital. 

The risk resides in the motor or fan failure causing down time and impacting patients and/or procedural based services. With fan wall technology, you can create N+1 redundancy with the fans & Variable Frequency Drives (e.g. when one of the fans/VFD’s fails the other fans/VFD’s can still operate at 100% capacity).  Replacing single aging fans with fan wall technology, you are able to remove a weak link point of failure.

How is this type of building operation critical? 

The critical fans retrofit project encompassed two preexisting fans serving multiple surgery suites. Each fan provided approximately 50,000 CFM of air to the supported areas (the air equivalent required to condition 70+ residential homes).

A hospital building is unique in that it must provide a clean stable environment of minimal noise and disruption.  Like doctors, building experts have to keep the end-user patient in mind while planning, executing, and monitoring to maintain the environment of care.  

Why does retrofitting make good business sense? 

It is essentially matching, or exceeding, existing capacities and performance.  This technology creates redundancy and energy savings through fan efficiency.  In many cases, there is an increase in the capacity of the fan while not requiring an increase in electrical service.

Proactively planning and executing retrofits is a major component to maintaining business continuity. Replacing aging mechanical systems is inevitable. And picking the “right” sustainable solution makes good financial sense for an industry like healthcare, where your hospital building and its physical environment is a predominant part of the patient customer experience.

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a full-service, design-build, mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about MacDonald-Miller’s recent projects.

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