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Guided by current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the University has concentrated efforts on improving ventilation and filtration in classroom buildings.

Facilities Services is changing filters and performing preventive maintenance on building HVAC systems before they are brought back online. HVAC ventilation systems are being assessed to ensure proper operation and opportunities for increased air circulation.

All classroom building box filters have been changed and upgraded to filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13 or higher, as recommended by the CDC and ASHRAE. MERV-13 filters provide increased filtration over standard filters and per ASHRAE are efficient at capturing airborne viruses.

Only classroom buildings that have been determined to have properly ventilating HVAC systems and have upgraded air filters installed will be utilized for spring classes. Buildings that will not be utilized as classroom buildings can still be utilized for general office areas based on reduced densities.

Mechanical systems in classroom buildings will be adjusted to run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily to pre- and post-clean buildings during unoccupied hours.

While the University is working to enhance campus HVAC systems, wearing face masks, physical distancing, daily health monitoring and enhanced cleaning protocols remain the most effective ways to protect yourself and the community from COVID-19.

Frequently Asked Questions

What role do building heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems play in reducing the spread of COVID-19?
With the exception of older, naturally ventilated buildings, building HVAC systems bring in outside air, which dilutes any potential concentration of infectious aerosols. HVAC systems also provide air filtration, which will capture a portion of any circulating particles, including viruses.
What additional steps are being taken for approved program activities that cannot meet mask and/or physical distancing requirements, such as programs held by the music department and Campus Recreation?
The University is exploring supplementing building mechanical systems with portable HEPA air filtration units. Portable air filtration units have been ordered for use in higher risk spaces and will be available for spring semester.
Does my campus building have adequate fresh/outdoor air ventilation?
Most buildings on campus are supplied with fresh air through the HVAC system. Fresh air requirements are based on occupant density and space function, and campus buildings are designed to minimum ventilation rates as established by the North Carolina Mechanical Code. Specialty-use spaces, including labs and animal care areas, may have additional ventilation requirements, including ventilation that requires 100% outside air. These campus spaces are designed to established minimum air change per hour (ACH) rates as recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
Is it possible to increase the outside air ventilation in my area?
Many campus building systems are designed to increase outside air ventilation during favorable weather conditions, which typically occur during the milder spring and fall seasons. The University is inspecting building ventilation systems for proper operation and will seek ways to increase outside air ventilation when appropriate and as weather conditions allow.
Should I open building windows if operable?
Building occupants should not open windows, as this can increase the load on HVAC systems and/or create uncomfortable or unfavorable building conditions.
Are high containment or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters used in campus buildings?
Specialty-use areas on campus, including labs and animal care areas, require high containment or HEPA filters and the HVAC systems in these areas are designed to work with these filter types. Other campus spaces do not require high containment filters and the HVAC systems are not designed for that filter type.
If I have COVID-19 related questions about my building systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.), who should I contact?
Questions about campus building systems should be directed to Todd Going, director of Building Services, at todd.going@facilities.unc.edu.