Turning water fountains into infection control units

Published 15 September 2009

Toronto’s Farrow Partnership Architects sees future in infection-control units

Toronto’s Farrow Partnership Architects (FPA) Inc. sees business potential in converting drinking water fountains at hospitals and other facilities into hand-washing units. Working closely with infection control and maintenance managers at the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, the firm last year designed and installed fifteen units in the corridor of an inpatient care area.

While the drinking water fountains had been decommissioned, they still had an existing built-in source of water that could be used.

Daily Commerce News’s Patricia Williams writes that the architectural firm, which specializes in the design of healthcare facilities, hopes to secure similar assignments at other hospitals or even schools. “The advantage from a construction perspective is two-fold,” says architect/product designer Steve Ng. “This is a very effective retrofit solution for existing infrastructure, allowing hospitals to easily resolve increased infection control requirements. Utilizing existing plumbing from drinking fountains means construction procedures and costs and disruptions to (patient) care are reduced.”

Ng said potential also exists for the hand-washing units to be included as a new-build item, specified during the design stage with installation streamlined, due to their compact shape and simplicity.

At Credit Valley, prototypes were designed by FPA in the absence of any government performance guidelines, specifications or industry standards. The architectural firm owns the designs.

FPA and the hospital drafted criteria that included convenience and ease of use by busy doctors and nurses and provision for minimal spread of contaminated water and minimal amount of physical contact. The faucet has hands-free operation.

Other criteria were use of off-the-shelf components where possible to reduce implementation time as well as ease of installation. A self-contained unit was developed to accommodate installation in either new or existing plumbing.

FPA worked with a subcontractor and Wilsonart, which manufactures surfacing products, to develop the prototype and final product. Nurses and infection-control committee members provided feedback on the initial prototype and minor adjustments were made.

These included provision of a curved front to facilitate cleaning and to create a more elegant-looking shape. A second prototype, complete with plumbing and antiseptic gel, was also developed.