Charter Senior Living in Naperville, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin-based healthcare design and planning firm Erdman, joined forces to identify best practices in regards to preventing the spread of infection in senior living centers. Here are some of their insights on improving the efficacy of ventilation systems.
Determine the filtration level for each ventilation component, familiarizing yourself with the two most common filtration ratings: Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) and High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA).
A MERV 14 filter is a better bet, say, than a MERV 8, or any other iteration with a lower number. In many situations, only the existing filters will need to be replaced; at other times the HVAC unit’s filter rack, which houses the filters, may have to be altered.
Although HEPA filters provide the highest level of cleaning and protection, most systems found in senior living facilities are unable, or it is impractical, to add them because HEPA filters are deeper and require more fan horsepower than can be typically accommodated. As an alternative, look to portable HEPA-filtered recirculating units or a vertical terminal air conditioner (VTAC) that can be hidden away and installed in closets to improve air quality. As part of a new community for Charter Senior Living in Oswego, Illinois, for example, the project team is installing VTACs with MERV 14 filters.
Dilution occurs by replacing contaminated air with clean air from outside. HVAC systems should be evaluated to determine if they are operating at their targeted outdoor air levels, and any opportunities to increase outside air without jeopardizing the indoor temperature or humidity settings should also be taken.
Ultraviolet (UV-C) germicidal irradiation, bipolar ionization, and photocatalytic oxidation technologies for air disinfection have been around for a long time, but have regained attention during the pandemic. Portable UV-C units are used to clean following a potential exposure and require wearing PPE. Permanent UV-C units, which can be mounted high above the floor, are often used for larger spaces such as dining rooms to reduce potential contaminants.
Bipolar ionization, an emerging technology, is an easy, affordable retrofit to most ventilation systems that can help clean air within the unit. Ions can also travel within the airflow to disinfect specific areas. Photocatalytic oxidation units are primarily used in new construction for large ventilation systems.
Embrace voice- or app- activated technology to reduce contract transmissions on surfaces.
Use silver and copper ion antimicrobial technology, shown to inhibit the growth of damaging microorganisms, for bed rails, door handles, grab bars, and switches.
Add handwashing and sanitizing stations outside of resident living spaces with signage that encourages making the ritual habitual.
Rearrange furniture and use partitions to compartmentalize normally large spaces, including staff work areas and dining rooms.
Implement technology-fueled visitor management systems that track people at check-in and entry points.
A version of this article was originally published by Environments for Aging.