Try to imagine UI Hospitals & Clinics without proper heating, air, or ventilation. Not pleasant, for sure. Or safe.
It’s Engineering Services Week, and we’re spotlighting the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) team, a unit within Engineering Services. They maintain 2,220 gallons of water per minute traveling through pumps, and they repair over 250 air handlers, which is only a portion of the work they manage.
As a whole, the HVAC staff are responsible for providing HVAC to 5.5 million square feet among University of Iowa Health Care locations, including the main UI Hospital & Clinics campus, but also UI Sports Medicine and the UI Center for Disabilities and Development. When needed, they assist at UI Health Care—Iowa River Landing.
The team repairs broken pipes, responds to hot and cold calls, handles noises above ceilings, and monitors temperature alarms. Each employee is also trained and equipped to quickly respond to a variety of non-HVAC emergencies, such as leaks, floods, and power outages.
“If any critical air handling unit fails, acts abnormally, or even provides an odd odor,” says Dion Buckley, environmental systems mechanic III, “We address the issue immediately, knowing it impacts patient care.”
The team monitors and controls the circulation of airflow in operating rooms and individual patients’ rooms to maintain their comfort, while also allowing patients to set their thermostats in their rooms to a temperature they prefer.
“It is important to ensure air is continuously circulating in patients’ rooms, and especially in operating rooms. Poor airflow causes an increased risk of infection, so they ensure air is exchanged faster during an operation,” says Bob Miller, director of Engineering Services. “If a mechanical issue occurs and results in an alarm, our HVAC staff responds immediately.”
The HVAC team is also actively involved in energy conservation. Through monitoring and repairing variable speed drives, the team can control the flow and the amount of air or energy the air handler uses.
“The new air handling system installed in UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and other areas on campus have what we call ‘fan arrays.’ This allows for energy conversation and backup in case a fan malfunctions,” says Josh Pechota, facilities mechanic III.
Not only does the entire HCAV team change out over 130 air conditioner handler filters monthly, Buckley explains, but they monitor the temperatures of 1,700 freezers on and off campus. These units include medication and blood bank refrigerators, as well as the numerous cooler units for Food and Nutrition Services. The team ensures that overall refrigeration in kitchens, blood banks, pharmacies, and nursing units remain within normal range.
Currently, the UI Hospital & Clinics engineering team is working on upgrading to more efficient air handling units and larger exhaust fans in order to better meet the needs of patients and visitors.
About Engineering Services
The 100+ staff members in the Department of Engineering Services are involved in nearly every aspect of the maintenance, testing, and repair functions, including:
- Heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and building automation systems
- Plumbing, water treatment, and chilled water systems
- Medical gases
- Locksmiths and door repairs
- Electrical, lighting, and emergency generator systems
- Refrigeration equipment
- Automated temperature monitoring of refrigerators and freezers
- Painting, carpentry, wall, and floor repairs
- Minor renovations
- Equipment repair (chairs, desks, wheelchairs, etc.)
- 159 Call Center
- Vertical transports (elevators, escalators, cart lifts)
- Roof maintenance
- Life safety compliances
- Sign manufacturing
- Medical instrument shop
- Grounds, landscape, and plant maintenance
- Snow removal
Please take a minute to thank an Engineering Services employee next time you see them for the hard work they do to keep this place running smoothly.