The pandemic continues to be an issue in today’s world. Although we are getting a better handle on it, there are still hospitalizations and deaths happening all over the world. Health experts have made several recommendations on how to reduce the spread of COVID in indoor public places. Whether those recommendations have been implemented seems to be largely related to what side of the political line the state/county/district falls in. However, one recommendation that is politically neutral and absolutely beneficial is an improved ventilation system. Read on to see how ventilation can decrease COVID-19 cases in schools and why commissioning is so important when it comes to making improvements on HVAC systems.
How HVAC Improvements Can Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 in Schools
It is well known that COVID-19 spreads mostly between people who are in close contact and in an enclosed space, such as a school classroom. When indoors, the transmission of COVID-19 particles can occur at distances greater than six feet! If that’s not bad enough, it has been found that the particles can linger in the air long after a person has left the room. So, what can be done?
Schools across the country have taken many different approaches. Some installed plexiglass on every desk to keep everyone in their own little bubble. Others maintained a mask mandate while others attempted a staggered schedule and spread-out desks in an effort to maintain social distancing. One thing that ALL schools CAN and SHOULD do is to have the ventilation system inspected and commissioned.
HVAC Ventilation in Enclosed Spaces
The CDC, EPA, and other Federal Agencies all agree that improving the HVAC ventilation in enclosed spaces is essential to reducing the spread of viruses, including the COVID virus. Each of those Federal Agencies defer to the recommendations provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Those recommendations are as follows:
- Follow all current regulatory requirements and recommendations (masks, social distancing, etc…)
- Ensure proper Ventilation, Filtration and Air Cleaning:
- Provide and maintain at least the required minimum outdoor airflow rates for ventilation. Refer to ASHRAE Standard 62.1 for the most current outdoor airflow rate requirements
- Use, at a minimum, MERV 13 filters or better
- Only use air cleaners that have evidence of effectiveness
- Select control options that provide desired exposure reduction while minimizing associated energy penalties (such as standalone filters and air cleaners)
- Promote mixing of space air where directional airflow is not required or possible – ensure the mixing of the air is done without causing strong air currents that would increase the transmission of particles
- Confirm proper HVAC System Operation:
- Maintain temperature and humidity design set points
- Maintain equivalent clean air supply required for design occupancy whenever the space is occupied
- Flush the spaces between occupied periods when possible or necessary; operate the system long enough to achieve three air changes
- Limit re-entry of contaminated air
- Have the systems Commissioned to verify the HVAC systems are functioning as designed
How Do Commissioning Services Help Schools?
5D’s Incorporated is a mechanical commissioning firm. This means we have the knowledge, experience and expertise to:
- Inspect HVAC systems
- Test the systems for functionality, effectiveness and sustainability
- Provide recommendations and/or adjustments to improve the system.
In addition, in the event the system(s) fail or have mechanical problems, 5D’s specializes in complex system troubleshooting so we will be able to find the root cause to any issues identified and recommend solutions if necessary. When the effort is completed, 5D’s will provide a Final Commissioning Report detailing the processes used, findings identified and actions taken.
Having the system commissioned by a licensed third-party commissioning firm will improve the school’s Indoor Air Quality, minimize virus transmission and will demonstrate to parents and faculty alike the school is taking every precaution possible.
Our staff has kids that are in school. We take their health and safety very seriously and can relate to all the other parents out there that want to keep their kids home and safe but simply cannot afford to. The next best step is to ensure the school has taken every precaution possible and that includes validating the HVAC system(s) are operating at their best.
Give 5D’s a call and let us help to ensure your school’s ventilation system is performing at its peak level.