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Ventilation and HVAC

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A wide range of initiatives to help mitigate the airborne spread of COVID-19 continue to support the optimization of air quality and flow in Virginia Tech buildings.

Approach

  • Ventilation response team: Virginia Tech’s COVID-19 response ventilation team, consisting of leaders from the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities; Environmental Health and Safety; Emergency Management; Student Affairs; Office of the University Registrar, and more, continue to work closely to ensure all university buildings are well-equipped to help reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19.

    The stakeholders’ expertise in engineering, compliance, and research is a strong complement to the deep experience of the air quality team leading implementation. In a developing COVID-19 landscape, with new research coming out daily, the group as a whole is an anchoring force, working prudently to leverage the latest best practices and industry recommendations for HVAC in higher education settings.

  • Operational activities: The primary strategy to help mitigate the airborne transmission of COVID-19 in university facilities is to provide as much ventilation as possible using outside air without negatively impacting indoor air quality. By increasing the amount of outside air provided to a building, virus molecule concentration in the space becomes diluted. Ongoing operational activities maximizing air quality and flow in university buildings include, but are not limited to:
    • Adjustments to air handler/filtration levels; ventilation rates, and building’s automation controls to maximize airflow and outside air;
    • Air quality testing;
    • Implementation of a stringent air filter replacement operation, including increased frequency of air filter changes; and
    • Installation of standalone air purifiers in select spaces.
       
  • University facilities across the state: The ventilation response team continues to collaborate closely with Virginia Tech offsite facilities coordinators to ensure the same stringent HVAC operations are consistent across all campus facilities and leased facilities throughout the state.

  • Rooted in best practices: These approaches reflect the latest guidance from the CDC, World Health Organization, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

  • Standing up ventilation@vt.edu email for specific COVID-19-related questions around ventilation and HVAC.

Additional details

  • Standalone air purifiers (HEPA filters): There are standalone air purifiers in some classrooms based on a room-by-room analysis. University members can expect to see these in buildings constructed prior to the late 1960s and early 1970s that have not undergone capital renovations. Buildings in this time period rely on natural ventilation in their HVAC systems, which means outside air is provided to the space through open windows. While still permissible in building code today, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, air purifiers are added to assist in extra air circulation and filtration in high-traffic rooms.

  • What university members can do to help mitigate airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors: The best way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is to receive a vaccine, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently. Visit Virginia Tech’s Ready site for the latest information on public health best practices.

  • Furthermore:
    • In classrooms with operable windows, university members can open windows on a temperate day to increase ventilation. Please make sure to close it prior to leaving the space to prevent potential mold or water damage.
    • Exercise caution if considering adding an additional fan to the space. Directional airflow from fans may increase the risk of blowing virus molecules directly to another person, rather than diluting them. 


Aug. 23, 2021 - ventilation efforts highlighted: 
President Sands, Linsey Marr discuss COVID-19, vaccines, and protocols at online discussion


Content updated as of Aug. 30, 2021. Please contact ventilation@vt.edu with any specific questions or concerns.

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