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4 Ways COVID Changed the Landscape of MEP Design in Healthcare

When COVID-19 emerged early last year, it became clear that healthcare facilities’ current mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs were not enough to withstand the devastating impact of the virus. In fact, on a recent project Tec worked on, the medical center wanted hospital grade receptacles on the essential electrical system in the hallways to accommodate possible patient treatment stations and equipment charging stations beyond the customary number of beds. A little over a year later, these changes are being made, and new, higher MEP standards are recommended. The implementation of change is so crucial that the American Hospital Association has encouraged both national officials and independent facilities to update MEP standards for a more robust emergency response to be utilized in the future. Engineers and hospital staff have followed suit, requesting changes at a rapid rate. The following are four crucial changes to healthcare facilities that should and are being implemented:

  1. Enhanced ventilation and filtration systems. Because COVID is an airborne virus, having better systems to ventilate and filtrate air through hospitals. More filtration and disinfection inside HVAC units can also help to reduce the spread of a virus.

  2. Touchless sensors. Installing touchless sensors can cut down on the number of users for a device, reducing the transmission of germs. Many hospitals use these throughout their facilities already, so this is an easily implementable change.

  3. Exceeding mandated codes. Many healthcare facilities are doing more than what is required of them to create a safer environment for their patients, which many would not have been able to do in the past. For example, we recently added additional receptacles beyond National Electrical Code in patient care spaces for ventilators and other pandemic related patient care equipment and power in the floor for portable temperature sensing check-in stations.

  4. Infectious Control Lighting. Tec recently implemented new MEP design strategies, using UVC light wavelengths to destroy viruses.

According to MCP, all of these are a part of a concept called “Lean Design,” which is “the process-driven approach that examines the layout, flow, process, and protocol of a hospital.” Theoretically, this process is the basis for how changes are made with hospital infrastructure. So, what does this mean for hospital staff and patients? Implementing the Lean Design process and other changes helps lower infection spread and allow hospitals to create a better plan for emergencies as they begin to return to normalcy post-COVID. As new variants of COVID continue to spread, stricter changes will likely be necessary for the near future. However, preparing as best as possible is something that most healthcare facilities can agree on after the past year and a half.

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