Home | An Overview of ASHRAE’s Updated Guidelines for Academic Buildings

An Overview of ASHRAE’s Updated Guidelines for Academic Buildings

The reopening of schools and universities has been a prevalent topic these past few months as institutions strive to ensure they’re providing the safest possible environment for their students and staff to learn and teach in.

It is important academic leaders continue to review and verify their plans for reducing the spread of viruses like COVID-19 are up-to-date and being followed.

At a conference this summer, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force presented an updated guide to reopening schools and universities, reaffirming their position that “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning [HVAC] systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The collection of 41 slides includes a series of checklists to be completed for specific equipment and systems throughout the academic year. Some checklists are to be done daily such as general cleaning and flushing the air by operating the mechanical systems in occupied mode for at least 2 hours before occupancy.

Most equipment and system checks should be done on a monthly basis. Some of the monthly checklists are for major pieces of equipment like air handler units, boilers, cooling towers, and chillers. There are also checklists for single zone equipment like fan coil units and mini-splits, as well as water and steam distribution systems.

The Task Force outlines a set of “Designer Guidelines” with the goal of helping “designers retrofit and plan for the improvement of indoor air quality and to slow the transmission of viruses via the HVAC systems. The underlying effort of the designer should be to increase outside air to the spaces, treat return air and or supply air to spaces via mechanical filtration and maintain indoor comfort as defined by the design temperature and relative humidity.”

The guide also provides instructional and procedural recommendations for how facility managers can increase their existing air system’s filtration efficiency during the pandemic. The target filtration level for schools is currently MERV 13 or higher. The slides walk you through how to gather the necessary data to determine whether MERV 13 filters are compatible with your system. If MERV 13 cannot be installed, they offer alternative options for increasing filtration.

Finally, the updated guide includes a list of protocols for higher education facilities to implement, including recommendations for unique spaces like student health facilities, laboratories, athletic facilities, and residence halls.

Midwest Associates is here to help you evaluate and test how your academic buildings are performing this school year. Visit our contact page above to learn more about how our services can benefit you. To learn more about ASHRAE’s reopening recommendations, visit the link here: https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/reopening-of-schools-and-universities