Protocols related to increased standards for CWI's current HVAC operating systems are outlined for those interested.

HVAC and Building Mechanical System Maintenance and Operation

CWI is taking every precaution to keep students, faculty, and staff safe, including the steps outlined in this section. The following information is helpful for those who are interested in increased protocols related to ventilation. CWI’s current systems are being pushed to operate at their maximum intended design standards. Due the prioritization of outside air flow, temperature control may be altered.  

In alignment with public health recommendations, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRE), College of Western Idaho (CWI) is taking measures to prevent community spread of COVID-19 via increased ventilation and filter efficiency. The Facilities Planning and Management Department (FPM) will maintain and operate Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and Building Mechanical Systems as described herein during the COVID-19 public health crisis. 

Ventilation 

  •  FPM staff will perform preventive maintenance with increased frequency to ensure that ventilation systems operate properly. 
  • To the extent allowed by the capabilities and capacity of air-handling equipment and systems at each facility, the percentage of outdoor air introduced and total airflow supplied will be increased. 
    • Please be advised that increase in the percentage of outside air introduced comes at a cost as it relates to occupant comfort. During times of inclement outdoor temperature, achievable indoor temperature control will vary relative to outdoor temperature. 
    • Cooling Season – expect indoor temperatures between 78 – 80 degrees F.  
    • Heating Season – expect indoor temperatures between 65 – 67 degrees F.  
  • Where applicable, demand-control ventilation (DCV) controls will be programmed to ensure increased delivery of outside air. 
  •  FPM staff will perform preventive maintenance with increased frequency to ensure exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied. 
  • Mechanical systems in CWI buildings are designed and operated to meet or exceed the requirements of applicable building codes, which require a prescribed amount of outside air be delivered for each planned occupant. 
    • Generally, office and classroom spaces are provided 6-8 air changes per hour.  Labs and areas with specific/dedicated exhaust systems are generally provided 9-11+ air changes per hour.   
    • As space occupancy is reduced associated with the COVID-19 environment, outside air per occupant increases as occupancy decreases. (Less people in the space = more outside ventilation air for each person in the space as normally delivered.) 

Filtration (Mechanical Air Filters) 

  • To the extent allowed by the capabilities and capacity of air-handling equipment and systems at each facility, the filter efficiency will be increased as high as possible without significantly diminishing design airflow. 
    • The air handling equipment at Nampa Campus Academic Building (NCAB) supports and is currently operating with MERV15 filters. 
    • The air handling equipment at Canyon County Center (CYNC) supports and is currently operating with MERV13 efficiency filters. 
    • The majority of air handling equipment serving CWI facilities will not support use of MERV ≥13 efficiency filters. Equipment will be maintained with MERV8 – MERV10 efficiency filters. 
  • FMP will inspect filter housing and racks with increased frequency to ensure appropriate filter fit and to minimize filter bypass. 
  • Filters will be allowed to load up further than usual to increase filter efficiency and reduce frequency of filter changes.

CDC and ASHRAE recommendations for HVAC

Ventilation 

  • Ensure that ventilation systems in your facility operate properly. 
  • Consider taking steps to improve ventilation in the building. 
  • Increase the percentage of outdoor air. 
  • Increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces, if possible. 
  • Disable demand-control ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on temperature or occupancy. 
  • Ensure exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied. 

Filtration (Mechanical Air Filters) 

  • Increase air filtration efficiency as high as possible without significantly diminishing design airflow. 
    • The fraction of particles removed from air passing through a filter is termed “filter efficiency” and is provided by the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) under standard conditions. 
    • MERV ranges from 1 to 16. Higher MERV = higher efficiency. 
    • MERV ≥13 are efficient at capturing airborne viruses. 
    • Increased filter efficiency generally results in increased pressure drop through the filter and associated reduction of airflow. Ensure HVAC systems can handle filter upgrades without negative impacts to pressure differentials and/or air flow rates prior to changing filters. 
  • Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate filter fit and check for ways to minimize filter bypass. 
  • Consider letting the filter load up further than usual to increase filter efficiency and reduce frequency of filter changes. 

HVAC Maintenance Worker Safety and PPE 

  • Workers performing maintenance and/or replacing filters on any ventilation system with the potential for viral contamination should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE): 
    • A properly-fitted respirator (N95 or higher) 
    • Eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shield) 
    • Disposable gloves 
  • When maintenance tasks are completed, maintenance personnel should immediately wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Further Reading 

Office Building Information From the CDC 

ASHRAE’s COVID-19 Resources