At Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Boston, fiber-glass insulation inside of three air-handling units (AHUs) serving the facility's operating rooms, intensive-care unit, and recovery-room nurse's station was eroding, clogging final filters downstream. As part of a major HVAC renovation, the AHUs would have to be cleaned and re-insulated. Because Good Samaritan is responsible for regional emergency service, the operating rooms would have to be fully online with just 30 minutes' notice.
“Cleaning a hospital's HVAC system while it continues to operate is like changing the wheels on a car speeding down the highway,” Charles Cochrane, president of Cochrane Ventilation Inc., said.
Remarkably, Cochrane Ventilation completed the job without once interrupting normal hospital operation. Work was staged so that cleaning could be stopped and associated equipment disassembled within about 20 min. Because the AHUs had to be shut down to be cleaned, all work was performed during third shift, while patients slept.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Before the damaged insulation could be removed, each AHU had to be isolated from the other two. To that end, Cochrane's crew built temporary containment structures. The isolated work areas were put under negative pressure so that dirt, debris, and fibers could not escape.
Removing the insulation required further precautions. Technicians wore protective coveralls, respirators, and goggles. Once removed, the insulation was bagged, sealed, and placed in a covered cart, which then was placed in a decontamination chamber.
To replace the fiber glass, Cochrane chose AP Armaflex Self-Adhering (SA) insulation. After the AHUs were determined clean, workers simply cut the insulation to size and applied it using the adhesive backing, which quickly bonds to cleaned surfaces and does not emit odors typically associated with glues. To hold the insulation in place permanently, the workers spot-welded cup pins to the AHU panels. Because AP Armaflex is non-particulating, the workers did not need to wear special protective equipment.
AP Armaflex meets NFPA 90A, Standard for the Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems. While similar products are available, many do not meet code for smoke generation and flame spread, Cochrane said.
Closed-cell AP Armaflex's smooth surface is easy to clean. And unlike porous insulators, AP Armaflex does not have to be removed to prevent mold growth. It is the only insulation made with Microban antimicrobial product protection. It can be cleaned and sanitized like any hard-surface material, potentially saving hospitals thousands of dollars in remediation costs.
Given the special needs of hospitals regarding HVAC renovation, the installation of AP Armaflex was a financially sound and prudent decision, as Good Samaritan is unlikely to require another renovation of the AHUs on the scale of the renovation completed by Cochrane Ventilation. That is good news for patients, administrators, and hospital workers.
Information and photograph courtesy of Armacell LLC.