<img src="https://secure.insightful-cloud-365.com/264240.png" style="display:none;">

Stay Safe on Site: Hospital Ventilation Practices for Construction Workers

HPCT Blog Images June Weeks 3+4

During hospital construction or renovation projects, the stakes for maintaining a safe environment are incredibly high. Hospitals provide care to immunocompromised populations regularly, but when you add ongoing construction work into the mix, the risks of hospital-acquired infections, or HAIs, increase exponentially to sensitive patient groups. An estimated 1 out of 25 hospital patients have an HAI; a significant portion of those are instigated by construction or renovation activity for hospital compliance. For facility managers looking to make a difference in their HAI rates, construction is an important place to look for potential risks. 


Airborne contaminants that can be mobilized by invasive construction activities pose a significant threat to both patient and staff safety, especially for those with compromised immune systems or being treated for infectious diseases. It is the responsibility of the facility manager and maintenance teams to get ahead of the dangers to everyone inside the facility by putting safety measures in place like adequate ventilation. Ventilation not only helps to circulate fresh air but also to reduce the concentration of potentially harmful airborne particles that can wreak havoc on vulnerable individuals inside the building. 

In order to make the most of a great ventilation system, you’ll need to understand its importance, the uses for different types of airflow, and how to create an effective isolation room when necessary. Keep reading to learn how to harness the infection control power of HVAC ventilators in your healthcare facility. 

Why Effective Ventilation is Crucial in Healthcare Facilities

Ventilation is the process of introducing outdoor air into your facility and then distributing it between different rooms and areas inside. But it’s more than just adding in clean air — ventilation is a powerful tool against the potential spread of infection.

Here are a few ways that ventilation helps to support your infection control strategy against hospital-acquired infections: 

Removes Contaminants: Proper ventilation in hospitals helps to remove harmful contaminants, such as airborne viruses, bacteria, and pollutants, from indoor air. This is particularly important in hospitals, where airborne pathogens can cause infections and diseases.

Regulates Humidity: Hospital ventilation also helps regulate the humidity levels in indoor air, which can affect indoor air quality. High humidity levels can lead to the growth of mold, mildew, and other fungi, which can cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

Removes Odor: Proper ventilation can help to remove odors and maintain a fresh indoor environment. In healthcare facilities such as hospitals, odors can be particularly unpleasant and can even affect patient recovery.

While successful ventilation helps your hospital defend against the spread of HAIs, inadequate ventilation means that your facility can quickly become a breeding ground for harmful airborne particles. This can be lethal for medical center populations, especially those highly immunocompromised patients or where highly infectious diseases are present. For this reason, ventilation is one of the most important parts of your infection control strategy, alongside air filtration in hospitals. 

How to Harness Different Airflow Dynamics

Ventilation broadly refers to the movement of air between areas in your facility, but there are two ways that you can manipulate the direction of this airflow to best suit your facility’s needs and patient and staff safety. 

Negative Air Pressure

Negative Pressure means that air is forced to flow into a space rather than out of it. Imagine squeezing a pipette and the suction that this creates. This is the same concept as a negative pressure room — air is only flowing into the space.

To create a negative air pressure space, you’ll need a sealed space — either with walls or by using barriers like plastic wall barriers or temporary wall systems like STARC® RealWall™ — and a negative air machine to generate the negative pressure.

In healthcare, this setup ensures air flows into the room and prevents contaminated air and odors from escaping, protecting patients, caregivers, and others in the facility. Negative airflow works particularly well for patient isolation where there are infectious diseases involved because a negative airflow keeps infected air from leaking into the rest of the facility and potentially causing HAIs.  

How To Set Up A Negative Air Pressure Room

To set up a negative air pressure room effectively, you’ll need to meet a few criteria: 

  • The room must undergo at least 12 total room air changes every hour to ensure a continuous flush of potential contaminants from the air.
  • A negative air pressure differential of at least 0.01 inches (water gauge) compared to adjacent areas needs to be maintained, ensuring air flows into the room and not out.
  • Exhaust from the room, and any connected anterooms or toilet rooms, must be directed outdoors directly, preventing any cross-contamination with other exhaust systems. This helps in maintaining the integrity of the air throughout the facility.
  • To maintain a consistent negative pressure differential, the quantity of air exhausted must be higher than the air supplied to the room.


Positive Air Pressure

Positive Pressure means that air is only able to exit a space rather than enter it. Think about an inflated balloon that is released — the air is forced out and no new air is pulled into the space. This is the same idea as a positive air room. 

To create a positive air pressure situation, you’ll first want to ensure that the room or area is separated from the rest of the facility, similar to the process for creating a negative pressure space. You’ll then want to adjust the flow of air so that there is more air coming into the space than there is air existing. This can be done by adjusting HVAC ventilation settings or using fans to move additional air into a room. 

In a hospital, this setup protects patients and facility staff by keeping contaminated air out of spaces like operating rooms or immunocompromised patient areas. This works especially well to support an infection control strategy because entire sensitive areas can be protected from airborne particles and contamination. 

How To Set Up A Positive Pressure Room

Setting up a positive pressure room involves adhering to the following key requirements:

  • The room needs to have at least 12 air changes per hour to ensure that clean, filtered air consistently replaces the existing air, minimizing the risk of contamination.
  • If anterooms are utilized, airflow must be designed to move from the patient room to the anteroom, and then to the adjacent corridor, creating a buffer zone that further prevents the ingress of contaminants.
  • High-efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters must be installed either at the room’s supply air terminals or within the main air-handling unit. These filters are crucial for supplying clean air to the room, capturing at least 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter or larger.

4 Strategies for Effective Ventilation Management

HPCT Blog Images June Weeks 3+4 (2)

Facilities teams, contractors, and healthcare professionals must work hand-in-hand to develop tailored hospital ventilation plans depending on the layout, uses, and risks to different patient and staff groups. 

Use these four strategies to make the most of your time and money spent on effective ventilation: 

Collaboration and Planning

Encourage teamwork between facilities teams, contractors, and healthcare professionals to develop ventilation plans tailored to specific project requirements. When more people are knowledgeable about the ventilation plans and the impact on patient and staff health, you’re much more likely to stay compliant and engaged with meeting air quality goals. 

Create Isolation Zones

Create isolation zones by incorporating positive air pressure and negative air pressure techniques into construction or renovation processes. Use these manufactured airflow techniques to your advantage to keep sensitive areas safe from airborne contaminants and unsafe construction zones separated from other areas of the facility. 

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Modern, advanced ventilation systems and technologies can make great air quality and circulation more attainable even through intense construction and renovation activities. Research equipment like our suite of infection control products and tools to find the ones that will best suit your facility and its unique needs. 

Regularly Maintain and Monitor

Take time to regularly monitor and maintain ventilation systems to ensure that you’re getting the results you’re aiming for. When you understand the target numbers and can continually check the progress, you’ll know instantly when there is a problem or a potential issue and can get ahead of it. 

Take Steps Toward Safer Healthcare With Hospital Ventilation

The stakes are high, but with the right knowledge, preparation, and tools, we can create safer spaces for both patients and staff. Better hospital ventilation starts with a solid understanding of infection control best practices and investment into high-quality equipment that can help you meet and exceed strict industry regulations for health and safety as well as limit the spread of HAIs.

If you’re a facility manager looking to dive deeper into maintaining optimal indoor air quality, download our Ultimate Guide to Indoor Air Quality. This free guide provides you with one comprehensive resource to guide your journey toward a safer, healthier facility today.


The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Air Quality in High-Risk Environments