By Bronwen Ledger
Nova Scotia Environmental Health ClinicEngineering
A special clinic opened three years ago in Fall River, Nova Scotia dedicated to the research and treatment of environmental illnesses. Serving patients who are extremely sensitive to chemicals and ind...
A special clinic opened three years ago in Fall River, Nova Scotia dedicated to the research and treatment of environmental illnesses. Serving patients who are extremely sensitive to chemicals and indoor air pollutants, the clinic is the first of such facilities in Canada. Over 800 patients were on the waiting list when it opened.
The building itself has to be super-clean so that the patients and treatments are not affected by the indoor environment. Extraordinary measures went into its construction, which was managed by the architects, William Nycum & Associates. All the materials, for example, have minimum offgassing. The result is a structure of glazed clay block walls supporting a metal roof. Inside are features such as poplar doors (poplar is a low-odour wood), plastered, permanently sealed ceilings, few soft furnishings, and (installed later) full-spectrum fluorescent lighting.
Naturally, the air handling system is a critical component, especially in the 4,000 s.f. patient area. Burnside Consultants Ltd. designed the mechanical system, which supplies 100% outside air. It can be switched manually to a recirculating system if necessary, such as when forest fires burn nearby. The mechanical system includes a heat pipe heat recovery unit, radiant underfloor heating, and air filters that are 99.999995% efficient — the same as in a hospital operating room. There is also a CosaTron unit which deals with submicron particles by creating a complex electrical excitation field causing them to coagulate and thus be filtered out. Even the electrical wiring was a concern because its plastic covering produces odours. The conduit is in raceways which are under positive pressure and exhaust air at the junction boxes.
During construction, all the materials had to be washed down before being brought to the site. Workers could not wear deodorants or aftershave, smoke or carry liquids inside. Dr. Roy Fox, director of the clinic, says their measurements show that the building was cleaner after one year than at its opening, confirming that very little offgassing is taking place. The janitors use only water to clean, sometimes with hydrogen peroxide where necessary.
Despite its cleanness, the building has to cope with a different kind of pollution: noise. Dr. Fox says that the hard surfaces do not absorb sound and it sometimes creates a problem during teaching or therapy sessions.