patients and visitors never notice when Andre Fouche designs
seamlessly integrated ventilation and air conditioning systems
for their hospitals. But without the 30-year-old mechanical
engineer 's expertise, the facilities would be akin to Third
Fouche ensures that hospitals provide
an efficient and sterile environment for modern medicines
advancements to take root in his job in the Nashville office
of Smith Seckman Reid Inc., an engineering and information
management company that provides consulting services for a
variety of engineering, telecom and computer-related fields.
He makes sure that medical facilities stay cool to limit the
life of bacteria, that airflow from contaminated rooms doesnt
spread disease, and that noise from mechanical systems is
As a youth, Fouche often tinkered
with household appliances and at one point disassembled the
family weed-eater and lawn mower. His love of the outdoors
sparked an interest in environmental engineering, and as a
teenager, he chose a college with an environmental engineering
program. However, after attending several career fairs at
Vanderbilt University, he discovered that in order to register
on job recruiters radar he would have to change his
major to one with higher visibility.
Fouche eventually earned his mechanical
engineering B.S. degree from Vanderbilt in 1996 and has been
with Smith ever since. The Mississippi native has also worked
on several multi-million dollar construction projects, including
the Baptist Springhill Medical Center in Springhill, Ark.,
Denton Regional Medical Center in Denton, Tex. and Crest Hospital
"Many of the hospital projects
have unique design requirements for operating room ventilation,
pressure control for infectious patients, and cooling of spaces
with sensitive medical imaging equipment," says Fouche. "Often
environmental considerations are given for the design of the
fuel oil systems, discharge of high temperature condensate,
and discharge of noxious or deleterious exhaust air."
During a $180-million construction
project at a University of Alabama- Birmingham diagnostic
and treatment facility, a wind tunnel study revealed that
contaminated exhaust airstreams might affect outside air intakes.
Fouche and his colleagues used carbon filtration to mitigate
the helicopter fumes. In addition, Fouche added several design
elements to its mechanical systems, such as a secondary cooling
system from roof-mounted air-cooled chillers, to guard against
heat buildup in intensive care units in the case of a permanent
cooling equipment failure. The Birmingham facility also contains
cross-connected air handlers that supply air to critical areas
in the event of the failure of a motor or cooling coil.
In nearly every project, Fouche
encounters challenges in providing the comforts of noise reduction,
fresh air and a cool environment that doctors, nurses and
patients expect in a medical facility. That includes controlling
noise from air-cooled chillers.
Consumed with designing ventilation
systems during the day, Fouche often finds himself evaluating
air conditioning and heating systems when hes off the
clock. "Curiosity often arises about the design of mechanical
systems when I visit even common places such as restaurants.
In general, the evaluation at medical facilities and places
like restaurants usually is limited [because] critical design
elements are not readily visible or accessible," he says.
"I may look at where the diffusers [are] placed. Are the diffusers
clean? Did the architect/engineer do something innovative
in the room layout? What kind of noise emanates from the mechanical
system? Usually a couple of key things alert me. It
is easy to detect if the building is under positive or negative
pressure when you enter the door."
Fouche keeps up on new technologies
and changes in the ventilation and air conditioning sector
by participating in a variety of professional organizations,
including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and
Air-Conditioning Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers
and the Association of Energy Engineers.
"I aim to continue to track
new and developing topics that relate to the healthcare design
field and HVAC industry," Fouche says. "I also plan on
increasing [my] project management experiences on large hospital
projects and building a long term relationship with existing