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Frequently asked questions about ventilation upgrades and building readiness

  • Has Ontario Tech examined the ventilation in its buildings in response to COVID-19?

    Yes. All ventilation systems have been reviewed and compared to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) best practices. This includes using a standard approach to reviewing the ventilation systems in all university buildings.

  • Has Ontario Tech considered modifying the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in its buildings?

    The university has reviewed ventilation systems in all campus buildings throughout the pandemic. Where possible, the university has implemented ASHRAE’s best practices to align with the recommendations.

  • Why doesn’t Ontario Tech implement all of the ASHRAE recommendations to HVAC systems?

    HVAC systems play a large role in the air balancing of a building and are installed according to building needs. Implementation of some HVAC system changes may in fact be detrimental to overall air balancing if such changes are not continually monitored or maintained.

    The university has reviewed and assessed the applicability of each ASHRAE recommendation and has implemented changes to each building where possible. This includes upgrading all university buildings to have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13 to 15 for filtration. Additionally, ventilation has been upgraded to include air purification systems in all HVAC systems.

  • Has Ontario Tech prepared HVAC systems for the return of on-campus activities?

    Despite significantly reduced building occupancy since the start of the pandemic, most HVAC systems have remained in operation throughout the pandemic, with regular replacement of filters.

    In preparation for a gradual and safe re-entry to each building, building operators have been performing inspections and maintenance to:

    • Ensure filters have been replaced, based on best practices.
    • Ensure all setbacks and setup modes are set to normal.
    • Ensure that fans are working, and that air is moving in and out of each building.
    • Ensure dampers (outside and return) are working properly for the flow of fresh air into buildings.
    • Ensure that filters are installed correctly to ensure maximum effectiveness. Conduct HVAC assessments on all systems serving areas such as classrooms, offices, labs and reviewed control sequences to verify systems are operating accordingly.
    • Install air purifiers in all air-handling systems and elevators, and disable demand-control ventilation to increase the amount of fresh air.
    • Perform air flushing (replacing indoor air with outdoor air) in every building, two hours before occupancy.
    • Verify a minimum ventilation rate of six equivalent air changes per hour for classroom environments when they are in use. Some other spaces, such as teaching labs and research labs are regularly held to more vigorous ventilation standards due to the nature of the space and activities.
  • How is Ontario Tech addressing suggestions in some research papers that it should increase ventilation and air change rates, increase fresh air flow and/or run air change 24/7?

    The university’s HVAC strategy aligns relevant legislative requirements and credible industry guidelines, including Public Health Ontario, the Ontario Building Code, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

    ASHRAE is the CDC’s and Ontario’s primary authority on HVAC and it has published COVID-19 guidelines for the industry. ASHRAE does not consider increased ventilation rate (‘air changes per hour’) and percentage of outdoor air circulation as processes that clearly reduce risk of transmission in non-health care facilities. In the event of an emergency, ASHRAE recommends flushing of a space with as much outside air as possible for extended amounts of time.

    The university defines an emergency in the context of COVID-19 as an outbreak on campus. In the event of an outbreak on campus, the university will follow the recommendations of ASHRAE and local public health authorities.