Building and space assessments continue to ensure campus safety
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Office of Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services (OVCAS) team has been actively reviewing existing building operating procedures to ensure compliance with the latest guidance available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the vast majority of UIC’s building and spaces which operate in non-clinical settings, the CDC recommends compliance with guidelines prepared by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). ASHRAE maintains standards that are universally recognized for ventilation system design and acceptable indoor air quality and has provided guidance for institutions of higher education during the pandemic.
The guidance provided by ASHRAE aligns with operating procedures the OVCAS team has already adopted and implemented. That guidance includes:
- increasing the delivery of fresh outside air through mechanical ventilation systems to the greatest extent possible; limiting the opening of windows in polluted areas, where doing so can upset building pressurization control, or where doing so can create air quality concerns due to humidity levels or airborne contaminants;
- increasing air filtration in the mechanical ventilation systems to the highest level possible without diminishing airflow; ensuring regular changing of air filters;
- consulting experienced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment;
- and using portable high-efficiency particulate air fan/filtration systems to help enhance air cleaning in spaces where adequate ventilation cannot be maintained.
For the past year, the OVCAS Plant Operating Engineers (POEs) have worked closely with external HVAC professionals and engineers to assess the HVAC systems in occupied UIC buildings and to continue making mechanical repairs and adjustments to optimize operations and enable continuous monitoring of the intake of fresh outside air. Initial phases of this assessment focused on UIC’s dental clinics and performance spaces used by the Departments of Theatre and Music. Subsequent phases focused on an assessment of the HVAC systems in instructional spaces since they have higher occupancy and therefore, higher risk. Note that our HVAC professionals advised that lower occupancy spaces, like administrative spaces, have typically been found to receive adequate ventilation due to the amount of air that needs to be provided to meet heating and cooling needs.
Our POEs continue to conduct similar assessments for instructional spaces planned for use in the fall 2021 semester at the Chicago campus. Following the completion of the assessment for instructional spaces, the POEs will continue evaluating the air handling units serving other spaces. This will be an ongoing process over the next several months to make sure that all mechanical systems are providing adequate ventilation and filtration. We are also working with the regional and Law School campuses to ensure they complete similar assessments.
As we move forward with these space assessments, please continue to report any temperature-related comfort issues to the Facilities Management service desk by emailing email@example.com.