[Content updated March 6, 2023]
Spend a little time talking with our Vice President of Product Development, Bruce Bickford, and you’ll quickly realize just how much safety factors into STARC's design process. Keeping patients and staff safe during an occupied renovation is at the core of our mission to raise the standard for healthcare construction, a priority that extends to occupied renovations.
For healthcare contractors, this means selecting temporary wall systems that meet the highest safety requirements.
Here are four ways we design safety into our solutions.
1. Designing for Safe, Simple and Disruption-Free Installation
Installation safety is a top criteria for our design team. We think about the whole installation picture: how and where our system will be installed, who will install it, and how quickly the installation can happen. Here are a couple of ways we design for simple and safe installation:
- Lightweight material selection combined with tongue and groove connection design. Materials such as slim anodized aluminum and fiberglass-reinforced polymer panels and a tongue and groove connection design create a simple lift and drop installation. Unlike traditional, messy and lengthy methods like building drywall containment, these design components significantly minimize installation time and labor needs. In fact, one person can assemble 100’ of wall in less than one hour. The quick installation also reduces scheduling friction and eliminates disruption to patients and staff.
- Designing for strength and structural integrity: our temporary modular wall solutions are engineered to securely integrate with and maintain a facility’s structural integrity - and keep occupants safe. We accomplish this by designing telescoping capabilities to extend and securely attach to the ceiling; using specialized grid clips which are proven to provide a secure and robust connection to the panel. Our panels are also designed to be stable and freestanding even before attaching grid clips.
- Panel bonding: The panels in our LiteBarrier system are bonded in place to ensure they cannot be knocked down or broken loose.
2. Designing ICRA Requirements Into Our Solutions
Protecting patients and staff from infection during renovation is at the core of our company’s mission. In fact, our founder - a healthcare contractor - was motivated to solve for the many safety risks created by traditional containment methods.
Ensuring our solutions meet and exceed the most stringent ICRA Class IV and Class V requirements is a main driver of our design process. It's also a critical consideration for healthcare contractors when selecting temporary containment for construction dust and debris. In fact, many healthcare facilities no longer accept traditional methods, such as plastic sheeting, which fails to meet these requirements. Here’s how we design ICRA requirements into our modular wall solutions:
- Creating Airtight Seals: Our mechanical components and tongue and groove design are specifically selected to achieve and guarantee airtight seals. This differs from early generations of containment methods, which rely on knobs or zippers that create as many fail points and problems as they solve. Our design components include:
Close-fitting tongue and groove design securely engages along a serpentine path with multiple 90 degree, zig-zagging turns prevents air flow.
Double-gasketing between the upper and lower sections of the panel results in two places to prevent air flow - and two barriers against dust and dirt.
Gaskets against the ceiling tile, on the floor and all the way around the door - including at the hinge and latches - are designed to adapt to every discontinuity or variance in an existing infrastructure, which eliminates airflow opportunities.
Designing with radiuses and corners in mind and using plastic track covers close all gaps and create flush surfaces.
Achieving Negative Air: Our pre-engineered ducts and systems are designed, manufactured and quality tested to ensure air-tight seals, eliminate airflow and achieve negative air pressure - a crucial combination in preventing the escape of dangerous dust, debris and/or pathogens. Our pressure monitors and pressure ports allow constant monitoring and control to ensure optimal pressure levels.
Selecting Durable Materials: Materials matter. That's why we obsessively select the most durable materials to manufacture our solutions. Why? To ensure our walls can withstand impact from both common and extreme construction and hospital events - and in turn, keep everyone safe. Conversely, breaches or tears in traditional containment like drywall actually create extra risk by releasing dangerous dust/debris into the space. Also problematic is flimsy plastic sheeting or polycarbonate, which do not provide protection against impact from construction events. For example, if ductwork crashes against and tears through plastic sheeting, we can all agree that’s a very bad day. A few examples of how our materials and design process achieve unmatched stability and durability:
Selecting materials like anodized aluminum for its corrosion and oxidation prevention capabilities - which significantly extends longevity and increases clean-ability. This means our solutions will not degrade over hundreds of bleach cleanings, construction damage, or casual impact events. While other methods use some anodized materials, they also use a silicone caulk which actually attracts dirt - something an Infection Preventionist does NOT want to see.
We also leverage galvanized steel and reinforced Polymer to create an unmatched sturdiness and longevity - something everyone wants to see.
3. Designing for Fire Safety:
Fire safety is key to our development efforts. In fact, developing a one-hour fire-rated containment system has been a core focus of our design, research and development process. To achieve success, we focused on two specific safety ratings:
- ASTM E119: which is the one-hour wall separation rating
- ASTM E84: which tests for flame and smoke generation on the panel surface. We also achieved in our other two solutions, RealWall and LiteBarrier.
Achieving ASTM E119 and ASTM E84 ratings in conjunction drove material selection, design of panel core, and all joint details for our new solution: FireblockWall™. As the first reusable, one-hour fire-rated temporary containment solution, FireblockWall meets ASTM E119, ASTM E84, NFPA 241, and IBC requirements. It also satisfies ICRA Class V guidelines.
4. Lastly: testing and testing again.
Our design and engineering team routinely put our wall solutions through intensive tests, replicating hospital and construction events to look for failure. Some test examples include:
Running a 500 pound bed into a wall system to ensure the wall stays securely attached to the grid.
Testing impact against projectiles such as two-by-fours, steel studs or various flying construction objects and heavy hospital beds.
Setting walls on fire (over and over again) to test for one-hour fire resistance.
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