September 11, 2020
To Reed community,
Over the last few days many of you have reached out to Facilities with concerns regarding air quality and our COVID response measures to increase mechanical introduction of fresh air into our buildings. As a reminder, these measures were put in place to help dilute the air in buildings to decrease the spread to COVID-19.
The devastating wildfires, high winds, and low humidity have combined to create poor air quality in the greater metro area. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rated our air quality in the hazardous range. It recommends that people living in our area avoid any strenuous outdoor activities and that individuals with extenuating health conditions should take extra care to limit their exposure.
As an institution, we continue to monitor the Oregon Health Authority and EPA websites for guidance regarding these conditions. At this time there is no guidance that supersedes the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and ASHRE (association of HVAC engineers) to effectively protect against the spread of COVID-19 in occupied commercial buildings. The best practice is still recommended as increased introduction of outside air.
The State of Oregon building codes requires a minimum level of outside air be introduced, mechanically, wherever such equipment exists, in order to occupy these buildings; on our campus this includes residence halls. This requirement coupled with the recommendation to maximize outside air is going to increase the amount of smoke that infiltrates our buildings.
One mitigating measure to this infiltration is that all mechanical air that is introduced to our buildings is first passed through a filter media. As noted in the Facilities HVAC working document (HVAC link) we use MERV-13 rated filter media, which studies show are effective at removing smoke particulate from the air stream. Not to suggest that this removes all the smoke from our buildings but rather that we are filtering outside air to the highest degree possible.
I appreciate the impact that this smoke is having on individuals living, working, and studying on campus, especially those with extenuating health issues and concerns. I still believe that sticking with the current guidance is the best overall approach for community health and safety.
Director of Facilities Operation