Protocol for building ventilation and air conditioning systems

Monday, August 17, 2020 :: University Marketing and Communication

To address the potential for aerosol dispersion by HVAC systems in UTRGV buildings, modifications and/or upgrades listed below will be implemented in all UTRGV facilities, based on ASHRAE COVID-19 Building Readiness and Reopening Guidelines.  

I. DEFINITIONS:
  1. ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers is the industry standard for air quality in buildings.
  2. HVAC – Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning is the technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality. 
  3. HEPA – High-Efficiency Particulate Air; A HEPA filter is a type of mechanical air filter; it works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, or tobacco smoke. HEPA filters have a MERV of 17-20.
  4. MERV – Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value is a system used to evaluate the efficiency of an air filter based on how effective it is at catching particles of varying sizes. The higher the MERV rating, the higher the air filtration capabilities of a particular filter. MERV ratings can range from 1-20. The most commonly used filters have a MERV rating between 8 and 16.  

II. MODIFICATIONS/UPGRADES:

  1. All HVAC systems will be scheduled to run continuously to reduce the potential for contaminant buildup in facilities. Exceptions include equipment failure, utility disruption, and maintenance.
  1. The air flow rates in buildings with outdoor air ventilation will be increased to ensure maximum dilution of contaminants for the specific HVAC unit and may take precedence over relative humidity values (ref: #5 below).
  2. Air filters in HVAC units will be upgraded to the highest level achievable and/or available for the specific unit, without compromising air flow, to ensure maximum capture of contaminants.
  3. In those locations where there is no exhaust or return, portable room air cleaners with HEPA or high-MERV filters (MERV Rating–13) will be installed.
  4. Building HVAC systems will be operated to maintain a target relative humidity between 55-60% during peak occupancy times to help reduce the number of active viral particles.
  5. Energy recovery ventilation systems will be bypassed to reduce the potential for possible contaminated air to be re-entrained into the supply air.
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