USU facilities managers evaluated heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems on campus to prevent spread of COVID-19. Photo by Wade Denniston
LOGAN – Early in the summer when plans were underway at Utah State University to open in-person school safely, USU’s energy team formed a committee to create a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems plan to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus throughout campus buildings.
Zac Cook, USU’s energy director, said forming plans on the committee were engineers, safety and industrial hygienists and a virologist/researcher. They determined one key is getting fresh, outside air into the buildings.
“If someone is infected and has the virus, and they are expelling droplets or aerosol as they exhale and as they communicate, we really want to eliminate the viral load in that space,” Cook explained. “By increasing the amount of fresh outside air, that’s one of the best ways that you can increase the viral load, the viral count, in an area surrounding an infected individual.”
And how is fresh outside air drawn into buildings on campus?
“The majority of our heating and ventilating systems on campus have what is called an economizer. It allows the ventilation system to bring in outside air, especially in a climate like ours here in Cache Valley where we have cool, dry weather most of the year.
“So, we’re able to either return air from the building and re-circulate the air, or we can open a set of what are called dampers and we’re able to draw air in from outside the building.”
Cook said as they follow measures on-campus that were recommended by national and state authorities, the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus is through mask wearing, social distancing and proper hygiene.