Healthy Buildings FAQ

Stanford Building Ventilation — COVID-19 FAQs

What steps is Stanford taking to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of coronavirus on campus?

Stanford is minimizing COVID-19 transmission risk by using a multi-layered strategy:

  1. Eliminating the hazard by keeping sick people at home, including:
    1. Health screening program for COVID-19 symptoms.
    2. Travel policy, requiring self-isolation when traveling back from out-of-area.
  2. Changing the way people learn and work:
    1. Emphasizing remote communication/work.
    2. For priority activities needing to occur on campus:
      1. Re-designing classroom and work activities to ensure physical distancing (being at least 6 feet apart).
      2. Staggering of work schedules.
      3. Indoor and outdoor signage program to remind occupants of physical distancing practices.
  3. Universal masking and hand hygiene:
    1. Consistent with local requirements on face covering use, Stanford has a universal masking policy to help prevent person-to-person airborne spread.
    2. Handwashing and sanitizing is being emphasized and facilitated with restrooms and hand sanitizing stations being readily available in buildings.
  4. Building systems emphasis:
    1. Supporting an enhanced cleaning program.
    2. Optimizing ventilation performance.

What kind of air ventilation/filtration systems are currently in place in classrooms, dorms, office buildings, and other spaces?

Campus ventilation systems are designed to deliver outdoor air exchange consistent with building code requirements and consensus industry standards. Over the past several years, the University has also been upgrading its air filtration systems to further optimize its general indoor air quality, and also provide additional resiliency during wildfire seasons.

Where possible, the University has standardized on MERV-13 grade filtration which is often used in hospitals and urgent-care/outpatient facilities. These are rated as 85% efficient at capturing particles in 1.0 to 3.0 microns particle size range, and 90% capture efficiency of particles sizes 3.0 to 10.0 microns. As such, MERV-13 filters are able to capture fine dust, smoke, pollen, as well as droplets and aerosols which are the primary form of airborne coronavirus.

What has Stanford done to ensure ventilation upgrades are implemented that help prevent COVID-19 transmission indoors?

To help supplement the above-mentioned COVID-19 safety efforts in campus buildings, the following ventilation-related enhancements have been implemented as part of building restart procedures.

  • Mechanical ventilation systems are optimized per industry standards and guidelines, with enhancement including:
    • Expanding daily operating hours (by as much as 50%).
    • Adjusting control settings to maximize the amount of outdoor air exchange in higher risk areas, where occupants may not be wearing masks or where larger groups are expected to gather (e.g., housing, dining, classroom, performing arts, and athletics facilities)
  • Continued maintenance of existing high-efficiency filtration.
  • Ensuring systems are up-to-date on routine preventative maintenance.

The strategy to ensure delivering effective building ventilation summarized above has been included as part of the campus building restart plans. As buildings are being prepared to come back online, ventilation system performance is verified prior to re-occupancy.

Is Stanford planning on fixing broken classroom windows so that they can be opened to increase airflow?

Part of the building restart plans mentioned above include facility checks, which includes window operability. As always, where building repair needs are further identified, building managers are there to facilitate such corrective action.

How will the university be adding more improvements as things are discovered about COVID-19?

As much is still unknown about COVID-19 and the coronavirus transmission that is responsible for its person-to-person spread, Stanford continues to stay updated on the latest research towards applying newly validated best practices responsibly across campus.