COVID-19 response weekly update: Modifications to the university built environment

Covid 19 update

Monday, June 15, 2020 - 9:08 a.m.

In last week’s update, I wrote about how physical distancing will impact the way we will use the campus built environment. This week, I want to discuss modifications we are making to our buildings to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) publishes technical standards to improve building systems, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and sustainable development. Rice follows these standards in both the design and maintenance of buildings on campus. Rice is also following ASHRAE’s published guidance for COVID-19 response. While every building is different in age and design, our facilities staff is taking the following general procedures for all buildings on campus:

  • Increasing outside air ventilation by reprogramming systems designed to vary air flow for energy conservation.
  • Enhancing air filtration through the use of higher efficiency filters.
  • Incorporating ultraviolet-C lights into heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to kill or inactivate microorganisms.
  • Cleaning of HVAC air handling systems.
  • Flushing domestic water systems.

Rice’s Facilities Engineering and Planning teams have been monitoring the health of our buildings over the last several months to protect both the buildings and their contents, as well as to conserve energy. We have protocols for returning them to full service. As we go through the process of bringing buildings back to normal operations, we have first focused on facilities with research labs. The rest of the buildings on campus will generally not be fully operational until the July 15-31 period, after return to work plans have been approved and we begin preparations for the fall semester.

In next week’s update, I will discuss the cleaning and sanitation procedures that will be in place for the fall semester.

Kevin Kirby
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration

For more information on building standards related to COVID-19:

ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols: