With hospitals and health centers coming under severe pressure due to (COVID-19), the government of Saudi Arabia resorted to turning hotel rooms or regular patient rooms into temporary precautious quarantine or isolation rooms, to isolate the suspected cases. This is being done in compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, and under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Health and the National Center for Disease Prevention.
Many may wonder; how can normal hotel rooms, or regular patient rooms, be transformed into temporary precautious isolation rooms?
The answer is highlighted by Al Salem Johnson Controls (YORK), a multi-industry company, operating in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen, and a pioneering provider of integrated solutions in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R), in addition to fire safety, security systems and Building Management Systems.
When converting a regular room into a precautious isolation room, there are a number of basic requirements that should be met. These include: (1) Ensuring that the air entering the room through HVAC systems is 100% pure and fresh; (2) continuous maintenance of negative pressure in the room; (3) replacing the air inside the room with fresh air, between 6 to 12 times per hour – depending on the size of the room; (4) controlling and maintaining temperature and humidity at very specified levels. (5) Filtered exhaust fans are mandatory; to ensure that exhausted (expelled) air containing microbes and pollutants are filtered before being released out of the building.
Director of Product Management, Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Policy at Al Salem Johnson Controls, Eng. Maher Moussa said: “Al Salem Johnson Controls has a number of integrated solutions and systems that enable HVAC systems to work with Building Management Systems as one, to contribute in the conversion of hotel rooms or even regular hospital rooms into temporary precautious isolation rooms, and prevent spread of virus and disease provided that all prerequisites exist.”
As a first step, it is necessary to ensure that windows and doors are securely isolated, to ensure that no air from the outside enters the room, except from the Air Handling Unit. Standard room precautious isolation technology relies on controlling the room pressure differential (negative & positive pressure). The objective here is to have the isolated room under negative pressure to prevent any virus or bacteria to be transmitted out of the isolation room; this prevents the spread of infection to other parts of the hotel or hospital.
When converting a regular room into a precautious isolation room, it is not advisable to recirculate the air, to avoid the transmission of microbes within the room. Hence, it is essential to have a source that provides 100% fresh air, and offers a system for exhausting contaminated air outside the building, with the installation of a controller that monitors and adjusts the air change rate per hour. Additionally, room pressure should be monitored and maintained lower than the surrounding zones (negative pressure). To ensure that the contaminated air in the room is safely exhausted out of the building, the exhaust fan must be equipped with a high-efficiency filter (HEPA-filter).
Eng. Moussa said that Al Salem Johnson Controls is a pioneer in the field of HVAC and Building Management Systems, and offers a number of technologies and solutions that can be integrated to fit the requirements of different applications. He said, facilities and consultants should incorporate the basic requirements at design stage to enable such technologies upgrade in future hotels and healthcare projects, which shall enable the transformation of regular rooms into precautious quarantine and isolation rooms in record time, when required.
The technologies provided by Al Salem Johnson Controls in this field include, but are not limited to, YORK Hygienic Air Handling Unit, and YORK Multi-Fan Array Air Handling Unit, Variable Speed Drive Technology and more.
The Building Management System (BMS), provided by Al Salem Johnson Controls, integrates various data enabled technologies into one central digital platform for monitoring, controlling and reporting, to ensure that the environmental conditions are maintained at the recommended levels, and monitored in real time by officials located anywhere, by using cloud enabled smart devices connected to the Internet.
Al Salem Johnson Controls has a proven track record in the HVAC sector in Saudi Arabia since the 1990s. The company is a Joint Venture with Johnson Controls International, which has over 130 years of experience in providing and innovating integrated technology solutions.