COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

A Healthier U website, identifies the following elements as being key to helping limit COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.( http://ahealthieru.auburn.edu/)
  • Perform daily health check via GuideSafe™
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet
  • Wear face coverings
  • Avoid densely occupied spaces
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces
  • Education, training, and awareness
Maintaining building systems, including central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, to support safe occupancy, is a supplemental effort to those described above.

DISINFECTION AND CLEANING SERVICES

Virex 256 or Oxivir TB. Any chemical used during this process will be EPA approved for killing COVID-19. 
The professional cleaning staff will clean and disinfect each weekday, during overnight hours, classrooms used for instruction.
Once daily.
No. However, most E&G (education and general) buildings have hand sanitizer machines either at the entrance of the building or mounted throughout hallways.
We ask that faculty and staff maintain their personal space by setting trashcans outside the door or workstation, and by disinfecting their own area. This will allow the professional cleaning staff more time to disinfect public spaces. 
Please place a Work Order through the ReADY system at https:\\facrequest.auburn.edu or call 334-844-HELP. AU custodial staff and its partners will receive the Work Order as a low status request.
The AUFM staff will know if there is an area that needs to use the confirmed case protocol of enhanced cleaning.
  • Personal Protective Equipment can be requested through the PBS office. To streamline the ordering process, PBS has created an order form that must be used to request PPE supplies.  You can access the form by clicking PPE Order Form. Additionally, the form can be found on the PBS website.  Please complete the form and submit it via email to pperequests@auburn.edu.

  • An employee may opt to bring their own cleaning supplies in the event their department or Facilities Management is experiencing limited or delayed availability. In extreme cases of need, please contact Facilities Management by calling 334-844-HELP and we will see how we can help. 

PPE Legend

  The warehouse has the quantity on hand to adequately supply based on quantities disbursed in the past 30 days.
  The warehouse does not currently have the quantity on hand to supply based on quantities disbursed in the past 30 days. However, items have or can be ordered and there are no issues with supply.
  The warehouse does not currently have the quantity on hand to supply based on quantities disbursed in the past 30 days. In addition, our suppliers are currently unable to provide the products
Contact the Campus Services office at 844-9120.
If any cleaning outside the normal procedure is needed, please put in a Work Order through the Ready system at https:\\facrequest.auburn.edu or call 334-844-HELP.
  • The building will be closed for enhanced cleaning services. The determination that enhanced cleaning is required will be made in coordination with the AU Medical Clinic.  Level 1 Enhanced Cleaning Services will take place when there is a suspected exposure (secondary contact with a known positive COVID-19 case.)  Level 2 Enhanced Cleaning Services will take place when there is a known exposure (primary contact with a known COVID-19 case, or if someone who tests positive for COVID-19 was in the area.) 

  • For more information on Levels 1 and 2 Enhanced Cleaning, click here
Please put in a Work Order through the ReADY system at https:\\facrequest.auburn.edu or call 334-844-HELP.
For all cleaning requests, please put in a Work Order through the ReADY system 

BUILDING SYSTEMS: INCLUDING AIR QUALITY

Auburn University buildings generally are conditioned by one or a combination of three types of HVAC systems:

  1. Fan coil units
  2. Central air handling systems
  3. Localized refrigerant-based systems

Cooling is provided from one of the following sources:

  1. Central campus chilled water system (consisting of four chilled water plants)
  2. Water chillers located at the building
  3. Refrigerant based systems (similar to a residential HVAC unit)

Heating is provided from one of the following sources:

  1. Central campus hot water system (consisting of three hot water plants)
  2. Central campus steam system (consisting of one steam plant)
  3. Water heater/boiler system located at the building
  4. Electrical heating coils

Note: Exhaust is provided in restrooms to remove odors and helps to maintain a slightly positive building pressure.

FAN COIL UNIT (FCU):

A fan coil unit consists of a fan and at least one water coil located in the unit. FCUs have air filters, a water coil(s) for heating and cooling the air, and a supply fan for forced air circulation through the unit and into the space. Water coils in units are like a car radiator that either heat or cool the air depending on the water temperature in the coil. FCUs are generally located within the space they are conditioning; however, they may be located above ceilings and supply air through air ducts. Outside (fresh) air may be introduced through the FCU if the unit is located along an exterior wall. FCUs may be either two-pipe or four-pipe variety. A two-pipe FCU will only be able to heat in cold weather and cool in hot weather. A four-pipe FCU will be able to heat or cool the air at any time of year.

Below are schematic diagrams of each type of FCU.

2 Pipe Fan Coil Unit Diagram 4 Pipe Fan Coil Unit Diagram

CENTRAL AIR HANDLING SYSTEMS:

Central air handling systems are those that consist of one or more air handling units which filter, cool and heat the air then distribute it to occupied spaces via ductwork. Air is typically recirculated from the spaces back to the air handling unit through ceiling mounted air return registers located in each space. The return air is mixed with outside (fresh) air, filtered and cooled in the air handling unit. The cooled supply air is supplied to the building through ductwork.

The four main types of central air handing systems found on campus are listed below along with their operating characteristics:

  1. Variable Volume Reheat Systems – varies the volume of air delivered to each space and heating is accomplished at terminal units with a heating coil and provides multiple temperature control zones on each air handler.
  2. Constant Volume Reheat Systems – maintains a constant volume of air delivered to each space and heating is accomplished at terminal units with a heating coil and provides multiple temperature control zones on each air handler.
  3. Constant Volume Single Zone System – maintains a constant volume of air delivered to each space and heating is provided at the air handler and only one temperature control zone is possible with each air handler.
  4. Constant Volume Multi-Zone Systems – maintains a constant volume of air delivered to each space and heating is provided at the air handler and provides multiple temperature control zones on each air handler.

Below are schematic diagrams of each type of central air handling system.

Variable Volume Air Handling Unit Diagram Constant Volume Air Handling Unit Diagram Single Zone Air Handling Unit Diagram Multi-Zone Air Handling Unit Diagram

LOCALIZED REFRIGERANT-BASED SYSTEMS:

Some of these units are like the heating and cooling system you have in your home. Some, however, are much larger and operate like the constant volume single zone system noted above but use a refrigerant to provide cooling and heating instead of water. These systems generally deliver a constant volume of air and provide a single temperature control zone. Ductless HVAC systems also fall into this category. Ductless systems as their name implies, have an indoor unit that mounts directly in the space being conditioned. These units are similar to FCUs but use refrigerant instead of water to cool or heat the air.

Below are schematic diagrams of a refrigerant-based systems.

Localized Refrigerant-Based Air Handling Unit Diagram Ductless Refrigerant-Based Unit Diagram
Facilities Management has installed at least one touchless fixture in each bathroom. If we missed a bathroom, please let us know.
Phase I: Increase the efficiency of air filters as practical, based on individual unit capabilities – MERV 13 where possible.

Phase II: Perform analysis of remaining systems to allow for the addition of tighter filtration.

All systems are being reviewed and adjusted to provide as much outside air into the systems as allowed and still be able to maintain indoor air temperature and humidity control.
Building wide systems are being modified to turn on well before and remain on well after the building is typically occupied.
Auburn University buildings are typically supplied with a percentage of outside air via mechanical ventilation. The amount of outside air is dependent on each building and system. Most Auburn University buildings are ventilated by use of a ducted central HVAC system. There are some buildings, however, that use room mounted non-ducted systems. Auburn University maintains both systems to provide adequate ventilation and thermal comfort through the following activities:
  • Air in each building passes through filters to remove dust and dirt. Air filters in most buildings, with a ducted central HVAC system, have been upgraded to a higher efficiency MERV-13 per recommendations by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • HVAC systems are set to maintain appropriate indoor temperatures which minimizes thermal stresses on the body. There are limits to how much outside air ventilation can be introduced and still maintain recommended indoor temperature and humidity control.
  • Building HVAC systems continued to operate normally during the "Safer at Home” period, even while buildings were unoccupied.
  • Prior to the pandemic, many HVAC systems had setback schedules. The setback schedules reduced the air flow rate of the units when the buildings were unoccupied to help save energy. The setback schedules have been modified to ramp up the air flow rate to occupied levels two hours prior to occupation. The systems will continue to operate at a reduced flowrate when the buildings are unoccupied.
  • Laboratory building HVAC systems operate continuously with 100% outside air supply that is not recirculated in the building and is exhausted directly to the outside.
  • Some buildings on campus are heated and cooled with room mounted, non-ducted systems called fan coil units (FCU). These units are typically controlled locally by the room occupant. It is recommended that these units be run continuously to increase outside air to the space.
  • If spaces have operable windows, the windows may be opened to help supplement mechanical ventilation, however, occupants should be reminded that windows should not be left open unattended for long periods of time (I.e. overnight) and to use caution when temperature or rain extremes are expected to prevent temperature control issues and/or moisture and water damage.
  • Opening windows may also make it more difficult for the system to properly control humidity and temperature within the space.
  • When possible, keeping conference room doors open can help increase ventilation.
  • Report building HVAC issues by submitting an AU Facilities Management Work Request at https://facrequest.auburn.edu.
Auburn University Facilities Management (AUFM) is continuing to check HVAC systems to ensure that buildings are ready for reoccupation. Guidelines from ASHRAE and CDC have been followed to prepare buildings for occupancy. Steps have been taken to reduce the concentrations of infectious aerosols in occupied spaces to the extent possible. Measures that have been and/or continue to be taken include but are not limited to:
  • Verification that fan systems are functional and operating as intended.
  • Verification that central HVAC fan filters are within acceptable operating ranges and replaced as necessary. To minimize air leakage, filters are inspected for major gaps or damage when installed.
  • Increasing outside air ventilation rates in recirculating HVAC systems to the maximum extent possible based on system capabilities.
  • AUFM hired multiple outside Test and Balance contractors to evaluate our building HVAC systems and ensure they are operating to design parameters as well as providing suggestions for additional improvements.
Air exchange rate per hour (ACH) is defined as the volume of ventilation air that is supplied and removed from the room every hour. The ventilation air can be through natural or mechanical ventilation systems and helps to remove and dilute contaminants in a room.
  • Some buildings on campus are heated and cooled with room mounted, non-ducted systems called fan coil units (FCU). These units are typically controlled locally by the room occupant. It is recommended that these units be run continuously to increase outside air to the space.
  • The number of ACH for rooms in a building will vary and are dependent on room size, occupant load and heat load for each room throughout campus.
  • In general, laboratories are typically supplied with 6-12 ACHs, and office areas and classrooms are typically supplied with 3-8 ACHs, in accordance with ASHRAE standards. ASHRAE states that 3 air changes will reduce contaminants in a space by 95%.
  • 95% of campus buildings with central mechanical systems achieve 3 air changes in one hour.
  • If you notice evidence of inadequate air quality in your space (e.g., air seems stuffy or stagnant) or thermal comfort, please submit an AU Facilities Management Work Request at https://facrequest.auburn.edu.
  • Yes, individuals may use a personal portable air cleaner (PPAC) in their work area. While it is true to say that when used properly, PPACs can help reduce the presence of airborne particles, AUFM does not recommend the use of these PPACs to prevent COVID-19 transmission. The evidence regarding the effectiveness of these air cleaners is not conclusive and the vast majority of PPACs one can purchase are not robust enough to do much more than filter out dust. However, as mentioned previously, most AU buildings provide sufficient fresh air and filtration.

    Prior to installation of a PPAC, the building occupant should:

    • Get approval from Department Leadership prior to purchase.
    • Initiate an AUFM Work Order to verify electrical availability and/or capacity to support the units to be installed.
    • Departments will be responsible for upgrades to electrical infrastructure required for additional load produced by installing PPAC’s.
    • Only use a PPAC with a HEPA rated filter.
    • PPACs that utilize additional air purifying technology such as an ionizer will not be allowed. These units may generate ozone which is a respiratory irritant.
    • PPACs which have UV lights are not necessary as research has shown they provide limited additional benefit in reducing aerosol transmission.
    • Consult with the Environmental Protection Agency Air Cleaners and Air Filters in the Home guidance document which is available at This Link.
    • Follow all manufacturer instructions for use and maintenance for the specified model.

    PLEASE NOTE: AUFM will not service PPACs.

    Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) is a known technology used to reduce the transmission of airborne microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, molds and other pathogens. However, the effectiveness of high intensity UVGI against SARS-CoV-2 is not known. The CDC and the EPA do not routinely review the safety or effectiveness of such light, and therefore cannot confirm whether UVGI might be effective against the spread of COVID-19.

    According to CDC guidelines, UVGI should only be considered as a supplemental technique to inactivate potential airborne viruses. Because of the potential harmful effects of UVGI to humans, in-room units are mounted high on the wall to be out of direct line of sight. The mixing of air is used to bring contaminants into contact with the UVGI. It can be difficult and expensive to retrofit this technology into existing office and classroom buildings. Alternately, the large number of upper-room UVGI lamps installed on walls or suspended from ceilings to disinfect upper air of spaces not only makes them an expensive strategy, but care must be taken to properly shield occupants to ensure any potential risk from exposure. Regular maintenance of UVGI systems is also critical to ensure effectiveness of the light and usually consists of keeping bulbs free of dust and replacing old bulbs as necessary.

    Because the clinical effectiveness of UV systems may vary, as well as potential harm caused to humans, UVGI is only recommended by ASHRAE for HIGH RISK areas, such as healthcare facilities, and is not considered to be a cost-effective risk mitigation measure for LOW and MEDIUM risk areas.

    Most spaces on Auburn’s campus would be classified as LOW or MEDIUM risk areas based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Hazard Recognition classification descriptions. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/hazardrecognition.html

    AUFM is continuing to check HVAC systems to ensure that buildings are ready for reoccupation. Guidelines from ASHRAE and CDC have been followed to prepare buildings for occupancy. This guidance from ASHRAE and CDC is not focused on determining whether a building is safe, but rather focuses solely on improving indoor air quality and reducing infectious particles in a building. The only way to be truly safe is to ensure that you are not around an infected person.

    Currently, there is no published research confirming that COVID-19 can be transmitted through central HVAC ductwork to an adjacent room and result in infection. Even so, to reduce the chance of transmission through the HVAC system, we have implemented the following recommendations from ASHRAE and the CDC:

    • Increased the percentage of outdoor air and building exhaust, when possible
    • Disabled ventilation controls that reduce outside air supply based on temperature or occupancy
    • Increased air filtration as high as possible without significantly diminishing design airflow
    • Inspected air filter housings to ensure most appropriate filter fit
    • Modified HVAC schedules to begin occupied mode 2 hours before normal occupied schedule
    • Verifying operation of HVAC systems with 3rd party test and balance contractors

    A personal portable air cleaner is a light duty appliance that has a fan and one or more air filters and may contain an ultraviolet light, ozone generators, or other technologies. These units are commonly bought in big box stores or online retailers and are more suited for residential use. These units do not perform with tremendous success and do not have readily available replacement parts and should be considered as throw-away devices. AUFM does not recommend these units and will not provide maintenance support.

    A supplemental building air filtration unit consists of a high-quality fan and filter that is designed to be utilized in a commercial setting. The fan and filters used in a supplemental building air filtration unit have better performance and results than the personal, residential type and have readily available replacement parts and filters that can be purchased from multiple vendors.

    Supplemental building air filtration units are designed to enhance overall building air circulation and air filtration levels. These units assist with removing particles from the building air and are provided in select Auburn University buildings based on several factors in order to improve the overall effective air exchange rate in the building.

    Supplemental building air filtration units use a fan to circulate air from a room through a filter and back into the room. They help move more air through filters in less time. Filtration has been shown to effectively filter virus particles out of the air.

    Supplemental building air filtration units may be installed in various locations such as above a ceiling, in an adjacent room or in the room where the air is being filtered.

    Below are schematic diagrams of examples of various supplemental air filtration unit installations.

    Diagram of Supplemental Filter Unit Installed Above a Ceiling Diagram of a Supplemental Filter Unit Installed in an Adjacent Room Diagram of a Supplemental Filter Unit Installed in a Room

    AUFM is constantly evaluating campus building HVAC systems capabilities to improve the indoor air quality. These evaluations to provide building supplemental filtration are based on high occupancy areas, intended use of the spaces, along with the capabilities of the HVAC systems to provide fresh and filtered air to the space. Based on these evaluations, there are some spaces that could benefit from supplemental filtration to improve indoor air quality. As these areas are identified, FM is installing supplemental building air filtration units in highly occupied classrooms or in common areas within buildings with limited fresh air and filtration capabilities.