Maintaining Indoor Air Quality on Campus

March 12, 2024

Maintaining indoor air quality helps to reduce the spread of Covid-19, influenza, and other respiratory viruses while also providing many other health benefits. Columbia Operations recognizes the importance of maintaining indoor air quality and follows the guidelines and positions of the leading industry association for building systems, ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). 

Operations’ robust preventative maintenance program for indoor air quality – which was enhanced at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic – continues to operate at the enhanced level at buildings across the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses. The program includes regularly scheduled inspections and servicing of air handling units (AHUs) and HVAC filtration systems across campus. The protocol for AHU preventative maintenance includes assessments of key components such as belts, motors, fans, and dampers to promptly identify any signs of wear or malfunction that might compromise air quality or system efficiency.  

The maintenance routine also includes the regular replacement of air filters to ensure they remain clean and efficient in capturing contaminants. All air filters in use have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher – in accordance with ASHRAE standards – for being more effective at capturing small particles, including aerosols that may contain viruses. 

To further ensure the effectiveness and proper operation of building systems and equipment, Operations conducted testing of the current ventilation rates in classroom spaces across the Morningside campus during winter break. The testing randomly selected 20 percent of classroom spaces, assessing if the spaces met or surpassed the designed air change rate. Ninety-five percent of the tested classrooms met or exceeded ASHRAE standards, and any deficiency discovered during testing has been addressed. The recent commissioning of classrooms in Manhattanville determined that air flow rates meet or exceed design requirements in those buildings.