COVID-19 mitigation in our buildings

Campuswide, primary COVID-19 mitigation measures supporting CU Boulder’s Road Map to Fall 2020 include wearing cloth masks, practicing physical distancing, contact tracing for infected individuals, and robust disinfecting and cleaning regimens. Things like building maintenance, increased air filtration and other building operations can play an important complementary role in minimizing the spread of COVID-19. This webpage provides information about the measures taken by multiple university entities to keep our campus safe and minimize the risk of virus transmission in campus facilities through building operations. 

Facilities requests

As we approach Fall 2020, plans and protocols are in place to address building operations mitigation measures and respond to facilities requests in a consistent and efficient manner across campus. To this end, we ask that all facilities requests, including HVAC modifications, barrier/plexiglass installations or other major equipment installations, be routed through our Facilities Management Operations Control Center (campus network connection or CU VPN required) via your building proctor or department leadership. Facilities Management personnel are also in the process of contacting colleges and academic units to assess their overall building needs related to COVID-19 mitigation measures.

A collaborative effort

The measures outlined below are being taken based on public health recommendations from multiple agencies, including: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety staff are collaborating with each other and with subject matter experts among our faculty to flesh out the challenges we must overcome and which solutions and best practices we can practically implement to ensure that our faculty, staff and students will return to a built environment that minimizes COVID-19 transmission while supporting the campus mission of education and research.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can help minimize airborne exposures to COVID-19. Based on this recommendation and supporting research, FM and EH&S personnel are applying a multi-layered approach utilizing multiple control strategies to minimize risk of transmission through the air.

Depending on building systems and population density in buildings, control strategies may include:

  • Maximizing the amount of outdoor air ventilation
  • Minimizing recirculated air
  • Increasing filtration efficiency (MERV rating)
  • Bypassing of energy recovery systems with potential for cross contamination
  • Operating building systems 24/7
  • Ongoing maintenance to ensure proper function
  • Portable recirculated HEPA filters in some spaces

These strategies will be coordinated with space allocation, scheduling, planning, disinfection and cleaning measures.

Initial efforts are focused on ensuring building systems are all working as expected, prioritizing additional measures based on use and occupancy. The above mitigation measures will be implemented with more frequency as population density on campus increases through the summer and with the start of fall classes.

June 25 update

  • The Resource Alignment Team met on June 16 and team champions approved the purchase and installment of portable HEPA filter units in more than 120 naturally ventilated classrooms around campus. 

June 18 update

  • We are modifying HVAC systems and ordering HEPA/MERV 13 filtration systems. We will install barriers where necessary.

  • The resource alignment team  is exploring ordering HEPA air filtration units for naturally ventilated classrooms.

As various work units return to campus, needs may arise for installing barriers to minimize contact at places like customer service desks or points of sale. Campus has already begun determining the approach for possible plexiglass installations at high-traffic buildings like Wardenburg Health Center, the Regent Administrative Center and the CU Police Department.

It is important that such efforts are coordinated through FM and EH&S due to the potential impacts to ventilation/airflow, as well as means of egress.

Facilities Management personnel are in the process of contacting colleges and academic units to assess overall facility needs. If your building has immediate such needs in the meantime, please route requests to the Operations Control Center through your building proctor or department leadership for the most consistent and efficient implementation of these measures across the campus.

June 25 update

  • A facilities task force  is making progress on the design of plexiglass barriers—with transactional service counter spaces being prioritized—are being coordinated with the HVAC subgroup to ensure installations don’t cause unforeseen issues. The first of these has been installed in the CASE building.  

June 18 update

  • The resource alignment team is reviewing a proposal to purchase free-standing Plexiglas barriers on wheels for activities such as music performances, language labs and others.

Routine cleaning and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces is an important tool for minimizing risk of transmission. The various campus custodial teams, including in Facilities Management and Housing and Dining Services, are responsible for routine and frequent cleaning of public areas and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces (light switches, door knobs, etc.). Cleaning requirements are based on CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces and require the use of USEPA approved Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.

Routine cleaning and disinfection does not include areas that are not publicly accessible (i.e. laboratories, individual offices, etc.). Departments and individual work units are responsible for developing requirements and schedules for staff members to follow for cleaning and disinfection of spaces that are not publicly accessible.

To prepare for the limited return of researchers on May 26, Facilities Management custodial teams resumed full operations in all campus research buildings on May 18, including the following measures:

  • To promote the safest possible conditions on campus, we are continuing to provide enhanced cleaning throughout campus with increased attention to commonly touched surfaces.
    • This means that, based on recommendations from the CDC, Boulder County Public Health and medical staff, our custodial staff continue to clean and disinfect all bathrooms daily. These recommendations also include routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops). Additionally, we are increasing use of disinfectant (in addition to our normal multipurpose cleaner) in common areas to ensure that they are disinfected daily.
    • Researchers will remain responsible for the self-care and cleaning inside their labs. Our custodial teams have resumed trash pick-up and floor sweeping/mopping twice per week on a routine schedule.
  • For non-research buildings with little to no use, FM custodial teams will continue to follow our critical cleaning list of select restrooms and other areas with the frequencies communicated to us by proctors. Please have building proctors contact the Operations Control Center if there are changes for a building or if a disinfection is needed after a room is used.
  • Complete Facilities Management cleaning services list

June 25 update

  • The cleaning subgroup has begun updating comprehensive cleaning protocols for the campus, including for classroom spaces.  

Proper and frequent hand hygiene is believed to be among the most effective means for limiting risk of COVID-19 transmission. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. To help promote hand hygiene, the campus is providing an increased offering of hand sanitizer in areas of public access in campus buildings. Hand sanitizer stations in areas of public access in general fund buildings will be managed and maintained by Facilities Management. Hand sanitizer for areas that are not publicly accessible is recommended but not supplied or maintained by Facilities Management.

Important to note:

  • While plans are underway for custodial operations to install additional hand sanitizer stations in campus buildings, there has been a supply issue with the dispensers and the refills since the pandemic began.
  • Hand sanitizers must be strategically placed, with priority given to areas where there is no easy access to restroom or breakroom sinks and/or in high traffic areas. 
  • Supplies for hand sanitizer stations are on order and building proctors will be notified in advance regarding locations.

June 18 update

  • The resource alignment team is determining the best way to order hand sanitizer for all building entryways and high-traffic areas, as well as disinfecting wipes for classrooms.

Campus is developing occupant density limits for facilities based on social distancing requirements, infrastructure limitations and the nature of the use for the space.  

As population density increases on campus, special consideration must be given to the following spaces:

  • Public restrooms
  • Classrooms
  • Spaces used for isolation and quarantine
  • Residence halls
  • Vehicles
  • Elevators
  • Workout facilities
  • Conference rooms
  • Shops, maker spaces, art studios, teaching labs, theater, dance and music spaces
  • Building fixtures: toilets, water fountains, sinks, etc.

June 25 update

  • A facilities task force is evaluating space for instructional use, first looking at centrally scheduled classrooms, followed by departmental classrooms, conference rooms, non-traditional academic spaces (recreation center, UMC, Athletics, etc.) and outdoor spaces, including the possibility of using open-air and climate-controlled tents as options for addressing classroom, dining, study and other space needs.   

  • Groups from Facilities and the Office of the Registrar are working together to create solutions for class scheduling and classroom assignments that follow physical distancing guidelines and facilitate the full use of class meeting times across the entire day, Monday through Friday. 

  • On Friday, June 19, Residence Life sent out room assignments to about 4,500 students for Main Campus and Kittredge residence halls. Discussions continued around: 

  • Cohorting, in coordination with the colleges and schools. 

  • Protocols for policy/procedure changes to the visitor policy for the residence halls. 

  • Move-in dates have been updated and will now take place from Monday, Aug. 17, to Friday, Aug. 21, with students signing up online for check-in slots. 

June 18 update

In order to support the campus need to hold classes in places where we haven’t held classes before, such as outdoor spaces and conference rooms, and the need to use all of our space wisely to maximize our capacity, the resource alignment team is working to:

  • Determine overall space and classroom needs.

  • Determine classroom capacity and alternative classroom and other student meeting space to accommodate instructional needs and conform to COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

The process of cohorting first-year students into residential halls based on college, major and other interest groups is fully underway.

Facilities Management’s Planning, Design and Construction division has consolidated best practices for COVID-19 mitigation for our contractors to ensure their plans and responses meet current CDC and other regulatory guidance.

While not related to COVID-19 transmission, one side effect of remote learning and work arrangements has been the potential for water quality impacts. All domestic water on campus is supplied by the City of Boulder drinking water plants and is continually monitored to ensure the water supply is clean and meets all regulatory requirements.  With buildings being vacant or only minimally occupied, stagnant or standing water in plumbing systems can degrade the water quality over time. To ensure that the water in the plumbing systems does not remain stagnant for long periods, FM and EH&S personnel are proactively flushing the campus water systems each week.  As building occupancy is increased, the concern for potential degradation of water quality will lessen as more water is used on a daily basis.