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Utah State University's Energy Team is Working to Keep COVID out of the Vents

By District Energy posted 09-16-2020 14:34


The Utah Statesman


Utah State University’s energy team has been working on modifying heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on campus to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Zachary Cook, USU’s energy manager, said a committee was put together to work on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, HVAC, in buildings on campus. Cook said the committee spent time reviewing various CDC documents and other engineering documents and provided insight based on their professional experience. 

“Through this process, I feel that the committee has developed a robust operational plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Cook said, “and provide assurance to the campus community that the HVAC systems are being operated in a safe manner during this COVID-19 pandemic.”    

The push for updating HVAC systems comes from wanting to bring outside air inside buildings as much as possible, as well as improved air filtration efficiency and extended operation hours. 

“The changes made to the HVAC systems are to reduce aerosol or droplet concentration in the event of an infected individual producing a viral load in a building,” Cook said.    

Cook said most of the HVAC systems on campus were already “very robust systems” and haven’t required major upgrades or modifications. 

“The systems on campus have the capability of bringing in 100% outside air and take advantage of the dry climate we live in to bring in significant amounts of outside air throughout the course of the year,” he said. “This has made it possible to make impactful operational changes to the existing systems on campus.” 

Cook said several modifications have been made across campus. 

“These changes include scheduling changes to operate the fans two hours prior to the opening and two hours after the closure of  buildings to provide a pre and post purge of the air in the buildings,” he said. “Other changes include improved filter efficiency and introducing as much outside air into the buildings as possible.”

Some classrooms on campus were taken offline because of poor ventilation.

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