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Strategies for HVAC Projects in Existing Facilities


Major HVAC projects in existing facilities are noisy and notoriously challenging to deliver due to the added complexity of having to avoid disruption to occupants.

In one extreme example of things going wrong, a hospital had recently taken over an existing property and hired a contractor to renovate mechanical systems to bring them up to code. This work was being done in phases, and the hospital occupied the facility after each phase was complete. Near the end of the project, the commissioning agent was on site to test the new systems.

One task involved verifying the operation of the disconnect at an air handler. The agent shut off the unit for a few moments, and then moved on to the next unit. Unbeknownst to the commissioning team, the unit they were testing served an operating room that was in use. At the same time that they shut down the unit providing air to the OR, the humidity sensor in the room indicated low humidity. This engaged the supply duct humidifiers. With no air movement in the supply duct, this resulted in a dense fog pouring out of the supply diffusers. The doctors conducting the procedure mistook this to be smoke, sounded an alarm, and removed the patient to another area of the hospital.

A worst case? Maybe. But there's plenty of possible fallout that can occur when HVAC projects in existing facilities are not properly executed. To understand the common issues that cause these projects to jump off track, it's important to identify the underlying causes and understand ways to mitigate or avoid them altogether.

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