Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


Date of this Version



Published in The Annals of Occupational Hygiene 59:9 (2015), pp. 1190-1199. doi 10.1093/annhyg/mev048


Copyright © 2015 Ehsan S. Mousavi and Kevin R. Grosskopf. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Occupational Hygiene Society. Used by permission.


Most studies on the transmission of infectious airborne disease have focused on patient room air changes per hour (ACH) and how ACH provides pathogen dilution and removal. The logical but mostly unproven premise is that greater air change rates reduce the concentration of infectious particles and thus, the probability of airborne disease transmission. Recently, a growing body of research suggests pathways between pathogenic source (patient) and control (exhaust) may be the dominant environmental factor. While increases in airborne disease transmission have been associated with ventilation rates below 2 ACH, comparatively less data are available to quantify the benefits of higher air change rates in clinical spaces. As a result, a series of tests were conducted in an actual hospital to observe the containment and removal of respirable aerosols (0.5–10 μm) with respect to ventilation rate and directional airflow in a general patient room, and, an airborne infectious isolation room. Higher ventilation rates were not found to be proportionately effective in reducing aerosol concentrations. Specifically, increasing mechanical ventilation from 2.5 to 5.5 ACH reduced aerosol concentrations only 30% on average. However, particle concentrations were more than 40% higher in pathways between the source and exhaust as was the suspension and migration of larger particles (3–10 μm) throughout the patient room(s). Computational analyses were used to validate the experimental results, and, to further quantify the effect of ventilation rate on exhaust and deposition removal in patient rooms as well as other particle transport phenomena.