Aged Care Can Benefit From New Building Services Technologies
Australia’s aged care system is coming under increasing pressure as a result of demographic, social and economic change.
According to the final enquiry report produced by the Productivity Commission, the number of people receiving aged care services is expected to increase by around 250% over the next 40 years, with some 3.5 million people (10.3% of Australia’s population) requiring the support of aged care services by 2049-50.
Coupled with this increased demand are rising community expectations about the type, quality and flexibility of care that is received and rapidly increasing costs for providers, including staffing costs and utility/service costs.
With legislative changes, aged care providers are looking for competitive advantages in ensuring compliance with building codes and standards to receive additional government funding.
Aged care providers are also seeking improvements in the standard and efficiency of their facilities while minimising potential risks.
To meet these challenges and gain access to much needed resources, there are a number of building services technologies, which can help aged care providers.
There are numerous sustainable technologies that can be implemented cost-effectively to improve operations, as well as the internal environment.
High efficiency/low energy use air conditioning systems are one such option where, for example, the specification of heat recovery ventilators can increase the efficiency of the facility while at the same time providing higher levels of fresh air.
There are also very simple, ‘quick wins’, including low water use fixtures and fittings to decrease water usage, as well as helping eliminate the risk of Legionella growth in the fixture, and high efficiency lighting & controls which also decrease energy use.
At the Philip Kennedy Centre, a 52-bed extension in Largs Bay, South Australia, VRV air conditioning was installed, which, with inverter technology is expected to achieved energy savings of 30% compared to a conventional system. In addition, the use of T5 fluorescent lighting, a high performance solution, has the potential to cut the energy use in lighting by 65%. Meanwhile, Solar Hot Water Units have been used to reduce one of the largest impacts on the nursing home’s energy bill, as well as cut their emission of greenhouse gases by approximately 60%.
Building Management & Control Systems (BMCS)
These can provide significant operational benefits by optimising building services, such as air-conditioning, to increase efficiency and lower running costs.
Advanced versions can act as monitoring systems and flag up maintenance tasks automatically.
This helps minimise the risk of system failure and ensure continuous quality of care. For example, the temperature of warm water systems can be continuously monitored to reduce the likelihood of Legionella/bacterial growth.
Importantly, they can also provide written records to clearly demonstrate compliance with statutory codes and standards, including maintenance tasks, which are integral in helping open up access to the additional government funding.
Monitoring & Alarm Systems
These technologies are ideal for increasing staff efficiency through better response times with less staff, and in turn improving quality of care.
Advanced Bed/Room Occupancy Sensors can reduce the amount of regular resident checking required. Sensors automatically notify staff if resident remains in one location too long, for example in their ensuite, and can assist with monitoring bed wetting and other similar issues.
Wandering resident systems can automatically track and notify staff in event a resident moves past a set precinct or leaves their bed, which again reduces the onus on staff to monitor residents.
These systems can also be successfully used to support the provision of ‘in-the-home’ care through remote monitoring.
Intelligent building services engineering and technology specification can simply and significantly increase the quality of care by improving response times and the indoor environment, while minimising risk; increase the efficiency of sites, by helping make financial savings and optimising staff usage; reduce day-to-day operational costs and improving financial sustainability; and assist in complying with codes and standards, which ultimately can help facilities secure government funding.