Complex Mechanical SystemsFlooding

The Devil is in the Details with Complex Mechanical Systems

By January 31, 2018 February 1st, 2018 No Comments

As a hospital in Canada discovered earlier this month, an issue with one system can have a cascading effect on the entire facility with catastrophic results.

As reported in the Kaplan Herald in Ontario, two operating rooms were flooded after cooling coils in the air handling system “developed leaks over a weekend.”  Those leaks occurred after an exterior vent failed, allowing cold air into a mechanical room and causing pipes to freeze and burst, which then led to extensive flooding.

The end result: two operating rooms out of commission, along with the need for immediate extensive water damage restoration and repairs to the associated mechanical systems.

This series of issues is a very real example of the level of detail that must go into planning and constructing complex mechanical systems. While no system is immune from breakdowns, the nature of hospital air handling, cooling and heating systems in medical environments requires the expertise of a construction company that is well-versed in the intricacies of the systems in question.

For example, the alleged failure of an exterior vent could in reality have been caused by a lack of true system commissioning, conducted by the construction team before project completion, to ensure that “minor” system components like vent actuator controls had been functionally-tested.  This might have helped ensure that the vent in question responded appropriately to sub-freezing ambient conditions.

Another consideration could have been the location of critical hydronic piping systems susceptible to freezing, relative to the sources of fresh air in the mechanical room.  This sort of detail may have been overlooked by a construction team that was not attuned to the potential risk of freezing with mechanical systems of this type.

These specialized systems – where the consequence of unplanned failure can be disastrous – demand specialized knowledge and expertise, and a proven track record of success. If you are planning a complex mechanical system upgrade give us a call and talk with our experts about your project, and whether our team is a good fit.