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ASHRAE Standard 170: A Guide to Ventilation of Health Care Facilities


ASHRAE Standard 170 is a set of guidelines for designing, operating, and maintaining ventilation systems in health care facilities. The standard aims to provide adequate indoor air quality and infection control for patients, staff, and visitors. The standard covers various types of health care spaces, such as operating rooms, isolation rooms, patient rooms, laboratories, pharmacies, and more.


The standard was first published in 2008 and has been updated several times since then. The latest edition is ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Standard 170-2021, which was approved by ASHRAE, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in July 2021. The standard is available for purchase on the ASHRAE website or from ASHRAE Customer Service.


The standard is developed by a Standing Standard Project Committee (SSPC) consisting of experts from various fields related to health care ventilation. The committee follows a documented program for regular publication of addenda or revisions, which include procedures for timely, documented, consensus action on requests for change to any part of the standard. Instructions for how to submit a change can be found on the ASHRAE website.


The standard specifies minimum ventilation rates, filtration requirements, air distribution patterns, pressure relationships, and other criteria for different types of health care spaces. The standard also provides guidance on special considerations, such as humidity control, energy recovery, outdoor air quality, and emergency situations. The standard is intended to be used in conjunction with other codes and standards that apply to health care facilities.


The standard is voluntary until and unless a legal jurisdiction makes compliance mandatory through legislation. However, the standard is widely recognized as a best practice for health care ventilation and is often referenced by accreditation organizations, design professionals, facility managers, and regulatory agencies. The standard is also compatible with other ASHRAE standards and guidelines that address indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, sustainability, and commissioning.


ASHRAE Standard 170 is an essential resource for anyone involved in the design, operation, or maintenance of ventilation systems in health care facilities. The standard provides a comprehensive and up-to-date framework for ensuring safe and comfortable indoor environments for health care delivery.


One of the main challenges of health care ventilation is to prevent the transmission of airborne pathogens that can cause infections. ASHRAE Standard 170 addresses this issue by specifying different levels of air filtration and air changes per hour (ACH) for different types of health care spaces. For example, the standard requires that operating rooms have a minimum of 20 ACH and use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. The standard also requires that isolation rooms have negative pressure relative to adjacent spaces to prevent contaminated air from escaping.


Another challenge of health care ventilation is to balance the need for indoor air quality with the need for energy efficiency. ASHRAE Standard 170 provides guidance on how to achieve this balance by allowing the use of energy recovery devices, such as heat exchangers or enthalpy wheels, that can transfer heat or moisture between the exhaust and supply air streams. The standard also allows the use of demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) systems, such as occupancy sensors or carbon dioxide sensors, that can adjust the ventilation rate based on the actual occupancy or activity level in the space.


A third challenge of health care ventilation is to adapt to changing conditions and requirements in the health care sector. ASHRAE Standard 170 responds to this challenge by incorporating the latest research and be




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