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ASHRAE Releases Guidelines for Reopening Schools

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, typically referred to as ASHRAE, released a technical resource regarding the reopening of schools and universities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They stated their position as, “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning [HVAC] systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The full resource is available on the ASHRAE website. ASHRAE states the purpose of the guide in the introduction: “This guidance has been formulated to help designers retrofit and plan for the improvement of indoor air quality and to slow the transmission of viruses via the HVAC systems. The underlying effort of the designer should be to increase outside air to the spaces and treat return air.  The designer should also be concerned with mechanical filtration of the supply air and maintaining indoor comfort as defined by the design temperature and relative humidity.” The resource continues with two checklists for the fall start of classes. The first checklist includes a review of air systems and past indoor air quality issues, general inspection of spaces in order to identify concerns for water leaks or mold growth, and checks for implementing sanitary practices.

The second checklist focuses on HVAC systems. It starts, “Maintain proper indoor air temperature and humidity to maintain human comfort, reduce the potential for spread of airborne pathogens and limit the potential for mold growth in building structure and finishes (refer to ASHRAE Standard 55, recommended temperature ranges of 68-78 degrees F dry bulb depending on operating condition and other factors, recommend limiting maximum RH to 60%). Consider consulting with a local professional engineer to determine appropriate minimum RH levels based on local climate conditions, type of construction, and age of the building under consideration. Recommend minimum RH of 40% if appropriate for the building. Consider the addition of humidification equipment only when reviewed by a design professional to verify minimum RH setpoints will not adversely impact the building or occupants by contributing to condensation and possible biological growth in the building envelope. Trend and monitor temperature and humidity levels in each space to the extent possible and within the capability of BAS, portable data loggers, and handheld instruments.” The checklist also recommends reviewing airflows, verifying the function of filtration systems on mechanical equipment, ventilation, performing an initial airflow flush by running the HVAC system on occupied for a week prior to building occupation, and ensuring that domestic water systems are ready for use.

The resource continues, recommending different frequencies for verifications and checks on certain systems and sections packed with useful information. When it comes to administrations following these checklists and getting ready to reopen the schools and universities, Polygon can provide dehumidification equipment, portable air treatment units, and remote monitoring so that these guidelines are set by ASHRAE can be followed. In these challenging times, it’s important that measures are taken to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff as we start the 2020-2021 school year.

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