Hitendra Ahir on the roof of the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex at the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn

UTM upgrades ventilation for in-person fall semester

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 - 11:58am
Kate Martin

As we head into post-pandemic life on campus, now is a good time to clear the air – literally.

UTM’s Utilities Operations team has been reviewing the campus’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) strategy in preparation for in-person classes this fall.

The COVID-19 virus is known to spread through airborne droplets but Health Canada has stated that there is no evidence that the virus can transmit over long distances, such as through air ducts. As a result, there are no specific public health requirements regarding supplemental air filtration but UTM has upgraded its systems out of an abundance of caution.

The Utilities Operations team has performed ventilation assessments to determine air flow rates in each classroom, with a goal of at least six equivalent air changes per hour (ACH) – the same standard as healthcare facilities.

To meet the goal, the team is adding filtration units, disabling measures which reduce air flow (typically in place to support energy conservation efforts), installing enhanced MERV 13 or higher filters which trap up to 98 per cent of airborne particles, air flushing rooms two hours before occupancy every morning to replace indoor air with outdoor air, and making changes to existing equipment and/or operations to meet the equivalent ACH target 

Areas such as research labs are held to even higher standard as an extra precaution.

Upgraded ventilation is just one of the many strategies being employed to reduce transmission rates on campus. Others include UCheck health screenings, rapid testing, masks in indoor areas, reduced occupancy, contact tracing, physical distancing, wastewater monitoring and enhanced caretaking.

For more on the filters being used in each facility, visit here.

For more on U of T COVID-19 strategy, visit here.

For questions on the HVAC system, contact Ahmed Azhari, Director, Utilities & Sustainability, Facilities Management & Planning at ahmed.azhari@utoronto.ca.