COVID-19 Update: Ventilation at the Guelph campus

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The following information is provided by the Return to Campuses steering committee.

As we prepare to welcome more of our community back to campus, many have asked questions about the University’s approach to ventilation in our buildings. While ventilation is just one piece in U of G’s approach to safely welcoming you back, you can be assured that we are following guidance from Health Canada, Public Health Ontario and other HVAC industry guidelines about ventilation to ensure a safe campus.

The Central Utilities Plant on the U of G campus

U of G is working to optimize indoor air quality to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and enable a safe return.

Ventilation on campus today

As part of its standard practice, Physical Resources will continue to monitor and maintain campus indoor environments by:

  • Bringing as much outdoor air into our ventilation systems as possible. This reduces the concentration of viral particles in the air and helps to lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission should someone come to campus while contagious. Many of our science, academic and research buildings are continuously supplied with 100-per-cent outside air.
  • Continuing to use MERV-14 filters or the highest rated filter possible for the design of each HVAC system. MERV-14 filters exceed the recommended standard set in the ASHRAE Core Recommendations for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure. MERV-14 filters have been used at U of G since 2016.
  • Performing air purging before and after occupancy, replacing inside air with outside air.
  • Increasing relative humidity in buildings to a minimum of 40 per cent where possible. Some evidence shows that higher relative humidity may decrease the viability of the virus.
  • Regularly reviewing ventilation guidance provided by public health and industry recommendations.
  • Continuing to maintain HVAC systems on campus.

Additional measures in classrooms

Because classrooms are used by a greater number of people throughout a day, and because classrooms lack barriers (i.e., Plexiglas or partitions) between students, Physical Resources is taking additional measures to improve ventilation in classrooms. These measures are based on a University review of these spaces and on information from external experts:

  1. Performing an HVAC assessment. Air flow measurements will be conducted in classrooms to determine the air exchange rate per hour (ACH). ACH is a measure of how many times the air within a defined space is replaced each hour.
  2. Setting ventilation targets that meet or exceed the recommended standards for the specific space. This will be guided by recommendations of Health Canada, Public Health Ontario and HVAC industry guidelines.
  3. Enhancing ventilation in classrooms that do not meet recommended targets. These classrooms will be further assessed for the following:
    • Exploring and making changes to equipment if appropriate and possible; and/or
    • Installing air purification units to augment the HVAC system.

Your role on a safe campus

Ventilation alone can’t keep our community safe from COVID-19. You have a role to play, too. Get vaccinated when you are eligible. Wear a mask on campus. Stay home if you’re feeling unwell. Complete the U of G COVID-19 Screening Form every day before you come to campus and follow its direction.

These steps, along with the other ways U of G is preparing for your safe return, can help keep our community healthy this summer and fall.

The University’s COVID-19 website is your best source of information on U of G’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Return to Campuses website provides essential information for those coming to campus. If you need to be on campus, make sure you complete the U of G COVID-19 Screening Form every day before you arrive.