Wide range of initiatives underway striving to optimize air quality in Virginia Tech buildings
November 13, 2020
Virginia Tech’s robust air quality program, in place before the pandemic and including a dedicated air quality implementation team, continues to provide a strong foundation for initiatives underway that help reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19.
Air quality testing; monitoring heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; adjusting ventilation rates; and implementing a stringent air filter replacement operation are among the ongoing efforts to maximize air quality and flow in university buildings.
Optimizing HVAC infrastructure, carrying out the highest standards of cleanliness, and reconfiguring physical spaces are among the procedures and principles highlighted in Virginia Tech’s Fall 2020 COVID-19 Operational Plan.
The framework continues to guide the university effort to increase on-campus presence this fall and in the coming months. It serves as a foundation upon which to build a safe, effective, and cogent strategic path to move from essential operations status to full operations status within the context of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Informing prioritization of HVAC optimization activities is a collaborative group of stakeholders from the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, including its air quality team; Virginia Tech Environmental Health and Safety; Office of the University Registrar; Housing and Residence Life; and the Virginia Tech research community.
The stakeholders’ expertise in engineering, compliance, and research is a strong complement to the deep experience of the air quality team leading implementation. In a developing COVID-19 landscape, with new research coming out daily, the group as a whole is an anchoring force, working prudently to leverage the latest best practices and industry recommendations for HVAC in higher education settings.
Leading the realization of HVAC initiatives in the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is the air quality team, whose responsibilities are dedicated to HVAC maintenance and optimization.
Along with directing ongoing maintenance and testing, the air quality team is charged with procuring and installing more than 16,000 air filters annually on the Blacksburg campus.
Throughout the pandemic, Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities team members have examined nearly every major piece of HVAC equipment on the Blacksburg campus and are continuing to make adjustments as needed around air ventilation rates, system flushing, and bringing outdoor air inside to maximize ventilation.
The Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety also continue to work with the university’s offsite facilities coordinator to ensure the same stringent HVAC operations are consistent across all campus facilities and leased facilities throughout the state.
“Enhancing the health and safety of university physical spaces remains paramount as we navigate COVID-19. The same axioms guiding the university’s Fall COVID-19 Operations Plan — operational excellence, collaboration, and to an extent, flexibility — continue to underscore our efforts to maximize the safety of our HVAC systems across all university facilities,” said Lance Franklin, assistant vice president for environmental health and safety.
Specific COVID-19 related questions related to the operation of university HVAC systems may be directed to VT-EHS@vt.edu.
More information on how the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is proactive about illness prevention efforts through cleaning, reconfiguring spaces, HVAC maintenance, and more may be found here.