The feasibility of natural ventilation in healthcare buildings
2013-06-26T08:24:05Z (GMT) by
Wards occupy significant proportions of hospital floor areas and due to their constant use, represent a worthwhile focus of study. Single-bed wards are specifically of interest owing to the isolation aspect they bring to infection control, including airborne pathogens, but threats posed by airborne pandemics and family-involvement in hospital care means cross-infection is still a potential problem. In its natural mode, ventilation driven by combined wind and buoyancy forces can lead to energy savings and achieve thermal comfort and high air change rates through secure openings. These are advantageous for controlling indoor airborne pathogens and external air and noise pollution. However, there is lack of detailed evidence and guidance is needed to gain optimum performance from available natural ventilation systems. This research is a proof of concept investigation into the feasibility and impact of natural ventilation systems targeting airflow rates, thermal comfort, heating energy and control of pathogenic bio-aerosols in hospital wards. In particular, it provides insights into the optimal areas of vent openings which could satisfy the complex three-pronged criteria of contaminant dilution, low heating energy and acceptable thermal comfort for occupants in a naturally ventilated single bed ward. The main aim of this thesis is the structured study of four systems categorised into three groups: Simple Natural Ventilation (SNV) in which single and dual-openings are used on the same external wall; Advanced Natural Ventilation (ANV) which is an emerging concept; and finally Natural Personalised Ventilation (NPV) which is an entirely new concept borne out of the limitations of previous systems and gaps in literature. The focus of this research is in the exploratory study of the weaknesses and potentials of the four systems, based on multi-criteria performances metrics within three architecturally distinct single-bed ward designs. In contributing to the body of existing knowledge, this thesis provides a better understanding of the performances of three existing systems while presenting the new NPV system. The analysis is based on dynamic thermal modelling and computational fluid dynamics and in the case of the NPV system, salt-bath experiments for validation and visualisation of transient flows. In all cases, wards were assumed to be free of mechanical ventilation systems that might influence the natural flow of air. The thesis meets three major objectives which have resulted in the following contributions to current knowledge: An understanding of the limitations and potentials of same-side openings, especially why and how dual-openings can be useful when retrofitted into existing wards. Detailed analysis of bulk airflow, thermal comfort, heating energy and room air distribution achievable from existing SNV and ANV systems, including insights to acceptable trickle ventilation rates, which will be particular useful in meeting minimum dilution and energy requirements in winter. This also includes qualitative predictions of the airflow pattern and direction obtainable from both systems. The innovation and study of a new natural ventilation system called Natural Personalised Ventilation (NPV) which provides fresh air directly over a patient s bed, creating a mixing regime in the space and evaluation of its comfort and energy performances. A low-energy solution for airborne infection control in clinical spaces is demonstrated by achieving buoyancy-driven mixing ventilation via the NPV system, and a derivative called ceiling-based natural ventilation (CBNV) is shown. A comparative analysis of four unique natural ventilation strategies including their performance rankings for airflow rates, thermal comfort, energy consumption and contaminant dilution or removal using an existing single-bed ward design as case study. Development of design and operational recommendations for future guidelines on utilising natural ventilation in single-bed wards either for refurbishment or for proposed designs. These contributions can be extended to other clinical and non-clinical spaces which are suitable to be naturally ventilated including treatment rooms, office spaces and waiting areas. The findings signify that natural ventilation is not only feasible for ward spaces but that there is opportunity for innovation in its application through further research. Future work could focus on related aspects like: impacts of fan-assisted ventilation for a hybrid flow regime; pre-heating of supply air; integration with passive heat recovery systems as well the use of full-scale experiments to fine-tune and validate findings.