The success of any HVAC project in healthcare is all about making the right choices

Michael Linden is the Drives Manager in Australia & New Zealand for High Technology Control (HTC). HTC has been ABB's trusted channel partner since 1999. We recently met with Michael to talk about how their know-how helps meet today's requirements and needs in HVAC projects for healthcare infrastructure.

Watch a video version of the interview

What type of HVAC projects do you typically facilitate within the healthcare sector? Are they in new infrastructure or refurbishments? Could you give us some examples?

Recently after the completion of a new hospital building, the engineering staff was so impressed with what ABB Drives have to offer, and HTC’s support mechanisms, that the existing drives in the hospital building, a competitor model, were replaced and upgraded to the latest ABB HVAC drives. I think that this demonstrates that whether it’s a greenfield site or a brownfield site, there is a need for packaged and low-cost technologies that include solutions to optimize electricity demand in response to supply conditions.

What are the main requirements and needs of healthcare customers these days? What do they value and what influences their decision factors when it comes to choice of supplier?

First and foremost, healthcare facilities need to perform reliably, consistently, and accurately. In a consultant specification there may be requirements such as redundant systems, sizing, and selection of plant to adhere to those aspects, to safeguard that the equipment will work reliably, and easily, without being under stress.

For greenfield projects the technical decision for choice of supplier is usually based on the Mechanical Contractor’s submission to the Consultant. We at High Technology Control supply a comprehensive compliance report to ensure that the project parties are aware of ABB’s HVAC drives capabilities.

Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) performance is the most critical criteria in my opinion. This is because, for example, you don’t want HVAC equipment causing electromagnetic interference in MRI machinery, scanners, – anything considered as sensitive medical equipment.

Are harmonic disturbances a big issue for hospitals?

On a poor or weak electrical network harmonics can be an issue that reduce operational reliability of equipment. Sometimes a standard drive with chokes may not reduce the harmonics sufficiently to maintain an acceptable low level of voltage or current distortion on the power network. This is where including an ABB ultra-low harmonic drive should be considered. Not only does this fix harmonic mitigation under normal grid supply, but it also has significant advantages in terms of load efficiency.

On paper, and at a low tender price, a product may look attractive. But sometimes the wrong choice is installed, and issues are not discovered until commissioning, or unfortunately after completion. The most common issues we see are related to power quality, and reliability of communication with the Building Management System (BMS).

The success of any project is all about making the right choices. Regarding hospitals, rarely do suppliers specify anything but ABB.

  • Safety, performance and reliability are extremely important in HVAC, especially in hospitals.
  • HVAC systems shouldn't case electromagnetic interference in sensitive medical equipment.
  • Regarding hospitals, rarely do suppliers specify anything but ABB.

Can you share some notable examples of projects you’ve been involved in, from your own HTC perspective, where ABB technology has played a significant role?

There are many reasons why we are successful with ABB drives in sensitive healthcare environments. This is not only due to the inbuilt correct RFI filtering for the sensitive environment, but other intangible features such as the high level of programming flexibility for standard operation.

“Adaptability” might be the best word to use – being able to use advanced programming to deliver a solution to a complicated fire matrix. We have assisted in this area many times with standard parameterization of the drive, and occasionally take advantage of the inbuilt Adaptive Programming feature.

There are times when a drive by itself may be limited. A recent example comes to mind - a building we worked on had 32 different pressure zones in the fire matrix design. In this case all the sensors were fed to an ABB PLC with the appropriate output feeding the drive. The pressures were displayed on an HMI and the whole unit operated as a stand-alone watchdog, separate from the Building Management System.

What trends do you see in the HVAC segment for infrastructure development, in general, and for the healthcare sector in particular? How do you see ABB technologies answering the needs of these emerging trends?

EC Plug Fans are a trend for manufacturing of ‘Air Handling Units’ (AHUs). While they have been successful due to their size and construction, they can add significant conductive radiation or harmonic disturbances to the hospital power network.

In my opinion, the plug fan aspect has been more of the hero in this instance, and we are now seeing the same fan design being used with standard high efficiency motors and variable speed drives. This solution represents the best of both worlds and compliance with the appropriate EMC standards.

Energy efficiency is clearly an important trend and a recent product released by ABB is the EC Titanium motor which moves HVAC into the next generation of efficiency and performance. These motors are extremely efficient not only at full speed, but also at reduced speeds as often required in the HVAC segment.

What role does digitalization play in today’s HVAC projects?

Apart from the traditional BMS, digitalization of the drive chain is not a well-known factor in the HVAC sector at the moment. I believe that within the next 5 years, engineers and facility managers will realize the benefits and advantages of condition monitoring systems such as ABB Ability™.

This reporting system, combined with ABB Smart Sensors wirelessly mounted on motors, will allow a comprehensive report to be generated for constant monitoring of motor conditions such as vibration and temperature.

All this gives customers more autonomy, control, and capabilities to optimize the complete process. This topology does not replace the Building Management System but enhances the reporting capabilities for the client.

We see some key themes in HVAC that we think are of significant importance. These include performance, reliability, efficiency, sustainability (mainly by reducing waste), safety, and integration. What are your own thoughts on these?

Performance and reliability are extremely important in HVAC, especially in hospitals. There are three indisputable conditions that need to be met to ensure a smooth integration:

#1 A modern, reliable product that compliments an overall modernized and efficient system

#2 Proactive and reactive support from the supplier

#3 Trustworthy back-up support from the manufacturer where and when required.

Project managers on HVAC installations are always under pressure, and we as drive suppliers become important as the project nears completion, usually during commissioning where our technical support is paramount to solve any issues immediately.

When it comes to other issues such as efficiency, sustainability and safety, they are all important but the requirements for these factors are usually contained in the original specification for the tender. ABB offers the highest efficiency drives rated at IE2, and, if you couple that with an ABB IE5 motor, then the combined motor and drive package exceeds the highest efficiency class possible.

As a final remark, I would only like to emphasize the earlier statement, that, “With regard to hospitals, rarely do suppliers specify anything but ABB.”


Contact us


Share this article

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter WhatsApp