Modern medicine could not have developed without the help of air conditioning. This is because a lot of the medications we use today were developed in laboratories with temperature-sensitive tools and equipment.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and its American counterpart, the FDA, ensure international good manufacturing practices are adhered to. These require all pharmaceuticals manufacturers to produce their products “in air conditioned and clean” spaces.
This requirement applies at every stage of the process, from the research and development of new medicines to their production and packaging. The air conditioning system keeps the air at the correct constant temperature, while also providing protection from airborne contamination and pollutants.
Air conditioning systems used in the pharmaceutical industry are among the most important components of the manufacturing process. This is particularly true in the case of multi-use manufacturing facilities, where two or more pharmaceutical products are made simultaneously. A high-quality AC system prevents cross-contamination in these facilities. It will ensure area segregation and containment, a hygienic environment and a comfortable climate for employees.
When a new multi-use design facility is being built, the design requirements include effective area segregation and containment, the safety of the products and personnel and the controlled temperature and humidity. There are mandatory requirements relating to HVAC design in this sector.
The use of air conditioning has benefited the medical sector in many ways. It has resulted in agile, faster production capabilities, with end-to-end monitoring and integrated equipment that enables an automated approach to what were manual processes in the past.
It’s not only in the production of medicines where air conditioning plays a major role. In the health sector in general, it helps medical facilities in numerous ways.
A reliable and efficient AC system is crucial to the functioning of research facilities to control the temperature and air quality. Failure of the system can jeopardise any research project, as these facilities require consistent environmental conditions. Years of study could be destroyed in the event of the air conditioning failing, so it has to be reliable.
Medical air conditioning systems can use 100% outside air, offer managed directional flow, pressure monitoring, alarms to alert personnel in the event of system failure, backdraft protection and supply and exhaust filtration, with the housings able to withstand the pressure associated with the system.
Air conditioning systems in hospitals must meet specific challenges, complying with a host of regulatory standards and helping to prevent hospital-acquired infections. As well as compliance with the legal standards, they must be designed and installed in such a way that they fulfil the requirements of different areas of the hospital.
Hospital AC design presents some unique challenges, as it must meet the needs of different space types – for example, wards, medicine storage, operating theatres, public areas and more. It must also provide ventilation, cooling and heating from a number of central locations. The office and lobby spaces, MRI suites, surgical areas, CT scan rooms, ECG and other testing areas all have unique requirements that must be met.
Most of us are never likely to ask, or even think about medical facilities’ air conditioning systems – yet they operate quietly behind the scenes to maintain proper temperature and humidity and to prevent the transmission of airborne infections.
Without air conditioning and temperature-controlled environments, many of the medical advances that we’ve come to rely on today simply wouldn’t have happened.