Building Preparation and Operations for In-Person Classes
The information on this page references operations from the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about building preparation and operations for the 2021-2022 academic year will be updated before the start of fall classes.
You can also view Facilities Management's page on ventilation to learn more about the work being done on building ventilation.
Frequent hand washing, social distancing, and wearing of masks continue to be the most effective precautions against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- Signs indicating that masks are required are posted in public locations across campus including lobbies, hallways, and common spaces.
- Signs have been posted in public locations across campus encouraging people to wash their hands and maintain social distancing. Additional signs are available by contacting the FM Customer Service Desk or submitting a ReADY request. Custodial Services will deliver the signs and/or post them appropriately.
- Elevators have signs encouraging single occupancy and use of stairs
- Water fountains have signs discouraging putting your mouth by the outlet and encouraging good personal hygiene.
- Bathrooms with less than 3 fixtures have signs asking people to respect social distancing.
- Classrooms and conference rooms have reduced occupancy signage.
- Handwashing remains among the most effective preventative actions. Bathroom remain the primary location for this activity (see Custodial Services).
- Hand sanitizing stations are located in lobbies of high traffic buildings.
- Custodial Services provide masks in scheduled classrooms for distribution by instructors in the event occupants forget/lose/damage their own mask.
- Buildings where face-to-face classes are held will be unlocked (open) Monday through Friday during the academic day only.
- Buildings where faculty and staff are working or performing research (i.e. no face-to-face classes) will remain locked at all times. Faculty and staff who are authorized users of buildings are also authorized to have keys or electronic credentials that provide access to locked buildings. Additional credentials may be obtained by submitting a ReADY request.
- Single direction entry and exit is not feasible due to ADA concerns. In general, there are simply not enough accessible doors in each building to impose single use requirements on doors. In many cases, imposition of such a standard would impose clear inequities in accessibility. Signage that encourages people to maintain social distancing is the mitigation.
Traffic Flow – Hallways, Stairs
Although technically feasible, hallways and stairways are not designated for one-way traffic flow. There are several reasons behind this decision including impacts to ADA accessible locations, proximity to exits, equity in terms of ease of access, and the reality of human behavior.
- Classrooms and lecture halls that are not scheduled for use will remain locked at all times.
- Classrooms/lecture halls and labs that are scheduled for in-person classes have been evaluated for maximum enrollment capacities based on social distancing guidelines. In many cases, this equates to a 70% to 80% reduction in the normal classroom occupancy.
- In loose-seat classrooms, excess seating is removed to ensure that seating levels are being maintained for health and safety. Furniture is stored in nearby locked classrooms.
- In lecture halls, chairs are taped off so that a 6 foot distance is kept between occupants.
- There are no current plans to install barriers in classrooms. It is expected that students and faculty will wear face coverings and maintain at least 6-foot distancing.
Conference Rooms, Lounges & Break Rooms
- Break rooms will not be used for food preparations under reopening plans.
- Departments are asked to keep conference rooms locked when not in use.
- There are now paper-towel options in every bathroom and waste receptacles are outside bathrooms.
- Signage is in place to encourage people to wash their hands before and after using the bathroom.
Due to the number and geographic distribution of employees regularly on campus, custodians are providing all the routine services that were in place prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.
- These services include daily cleaning of public bathrooms, common spaces, break rooms, hallways, entrance lobbies, and collaborative spaces.
- Also on a daily basis custodians will clean classrooms and reorganize classroom furniture to make ready for instruction.
- On a weekly basis, custodians will vacuum offices. This weekly visit to otherwise unoccupied spaces provides important “eyes on” that help us find and resolve small problems before they evolve.
COVID-19 Additional Services
- Western has 16 employees whose sole job is to disinfect common high-touch areas in academic buildings on weekdays. This includes all elevator buttons, hand rails, push plates, water fountains, etc.
- There is also a team of custodians performing this same disinfection work on weekends.
- Academic computer labs in Haggard Hall are cleaned and disinfected daily. Custodians do not clean these labs under normal operations.
- A team of custodians disinfect each in-use classroom between scheduled classes; these classrooms may be locked between classes to maintain the high level of disinfection.
- Special Note on Office Spaces – Western gets many inquiries about not having custodians enter individual offices to clean. There are similar concerns about mechanics and tradespeople responding to service requests. Facilities Management is working through those concerns by having the person/department submit those requests through ReADY. We will do our best to accommodate personal requests given the staffing and hours available.
Facilities Management has received a number of questions about air quality and air flow in buildings, particularly as recent CDC and WHO guidance indicates the potential for the COVID-19 virus to remain airborne for extended periods. Nearly all credible sources currently recommend some combination of increasing ventilation, increasing air flow, and increasing filtration of indoor air as part of the larger strategy that includes social distancing, wearing of cloth face coverings or masks, surface cleaning, and handwashing. FM’s building controls experts are going through each building on campus and implementing strategies wherever possible.
Efforts in this area are focused on introducing more outdoor air into the system in order to dilute the buildup of indoor air contaminants. A typical HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system design includes recirculating about 70% of air and mixing that air with 30% outside air.
- Wherever possible, we are modifying programming or manually adjusting outdoor air dampers to increase the proportion of outside air into the building system.
- There are also some locations which have room specific controls that operate based on detected occupancy. We are adjusting those controls to provide more continuous or more frequent operation.
- We are increasing the amount of ventilation during non-working hours to provide additional dilution of indoor air, even when not occupied.
- If a person is working in a space that has operating windows, they should consider working with the windows partially open.
Efforts in this area are focused on removing air from a space. This strategy applies primarily to bathrooms which have exhaust fans that pull air from the space and vent it to the outside. Across campus, we have some fans that can be controlled through programming while others require some manual action by a maintenance mechanic or room occupant. Wherever possible, prudent, and safe, we are operating exhaust fans 24/7.
Increasing Filtering and Cleaning of Air
- Most HVAC systems have filters in multiple locations through which both internal air and outside air may pass. Filters are rated based on the size of particles that may pass through the membrane, and current recommendations are to upgrade to a MERV-13 or higher rated filter. We already have MERV-13 in some locations and are evaluating our ability to install higher-rated filters in other locations. Progress on this mitigation often depends on the need for unique filter sizes and shapes in our diverse portfolio of buildings as well as the market availability of those filters as every industry is considering similar measures.
- Additional cleaning measures such as installation of UV lamps in ductwork or retrofitting air handling equipment is a capital investment. We will be developing new capital renewal projects to address this emerging functionality as the science and code requirements evolve.
The last, and most challenging mitigation for Western is controlling relative humidity in our spaces. The science indicates that keeping the relative humidity in a certain range minimizes the chances for microorganisms to survive.
- During the summer, air conditioning is used to affect relative humidity, but the vast majority of Western’s buildings do not have any air conditioning at all. The good news is that the Pacific Northwest's typical outside summer air contains a level of moisture that keeps indoor air in a desirable humidity range.
- During the heating season, the challenge is that heating of outside air dries out that air.