Western implements more strategies to improve building air quality

Contact: Deanne Puca

Small floor air handling units such as this one are being installed in areas that do not have access to outside air.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is welcoming back students with additional strategies to improve indoor air quality in all of the buildings on campus, as indoor air quality is a front-and-center issue amid the pandemic.

Last school year, Facilities Management began doubling the amount of outside air used within the building, as well as ventilating the building two hours before any scheduled use until two hours after any scheduled use.

This year, its engineering staff has been working with local firm Tower Pinkster to review each of the buildings on campus, their current mechanical systems and the potential usage in the fall.

A control panel for bipolar ionization units.

Control panels for bipolar ionization units are being installed on buildings' air handlers.

Based on this review, several of Western’s older building will be fitted with different types of technology to follow guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ASHRAE, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry's professional organization. Some buildings that utilize building-wide air handling units are receiving updated filtration in accordance with the latest guidelines. The newest buildings on campus already meet the guidelines.

Technologies employed in older buildings range from portable room units, additions to whole building air handlers that utilize bipolar ionization, to the use of more effective traditional filtration, to continuing with the current strategies.

While increasing the amount of air to a space and more effective filtration are easily understood, bipolar ionization is a technology that may not be familiar to many on campus. Bipolar ionization is a technology that uses energy to split water vapor molecules into ions that both attach to particles in the air, increasing their mass making them more easily trapped by filtration, as well as attacking pathogens that exist in the air. These pathogens include mold spores, bacteria and viruses.

“We are moving forward as quickly as possible to employ as many of the strategies to as many of the buildings as possible prior to fall,” says John Seelman, Facilities Management director of engineering. “Buildings on campus will continue to utilize increased outdoor air usage and extended hours of operation.”

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