Ventilation Considerations for Libraries

According to the CDC, adequate ventilation with fresh outdoor air is an important mitigation effort during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  • Depending on the season, keeping windows and doors open can be cost prohibitive and uncomfortable.
  • An HVAC professional can investigate the air exchange rate of a library’s HVAC system (if applicable) and provide suggestions for improvements.
  • If a library does not have an HVAC system, it may need to consult with an HVAC professional to assess what measures can be implemented to increase ventilation.

Ventilation Resources and Information

  • Efficiency VT offers a list of HVAC Contractors in VT.
  • A group of scientists and experts from UC Boulder, UC San Diego, Penn State, Yale, Drexel and more have co-authored FAQs on Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 Aeorsol Transmission. The stated goal of the FAQ: "to provide information to the general public in an efficient manner about how to prevent aerosol transmission of COVID-19, with the hope that this will allow more informed decision making by individuals or organizations." The document offers recommendations and guidance on the following topics (among many others):
    • Temperature and Humidity
    • Air Cleaning/Filtering
    • HEPA, MERV, and UV
  • An October, 2020, SciTechDaily article written by a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder titled “Ventilation and Air Filtration: How to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus Indoors” offers the following information:
    • Use a CO2 meter (accurate to within 50 PPM) to measure air circulation, as CO2 levels are a good proxy for measuring adequate ventilation.
    • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Look for the AHAM Verifide seal and check out the CA Air Resources Board list of air cleaners.
    • Try using the tool developed by Harvard University and the University of Colorado Boulder that helps schools determine how powerful of an air cleaner you need for different classroom sizes.
  • A September, 2020, New York Times article titled “How to Keep the Coronavirus at Bay Indoors” offers the following information:
    • MIT researchers developed an app “to determine how many people can safely congregate in a given space and for how long.”
    • Make sure fans do not push air from one person to another.
    • Adjust damper settings on HVAC systems to increase the amount of fresh air.
    • Air filters can be effective in catching the virus.
      • NY Times reviews of the best air purifiers. (Updated April 2021)
      • A.S.H.R.A.E. recommends MERV 13 or higher air filters.
      • HEPA filters are also generally considered to be excellent.
    • Be wary of “Air Cleaners,” devices that generate ozone, “bipolar ionization,” and chemical fumigating sprays.
  • VT Agency of Education’s August 2020 Publication “A Strong and Healthy Start: Safety and Health Guidance for Vermont Schools” (Updated October 2020) offers information that libraries can use/modify, including the following (see page 29):
    • Devices that recirculate indoor air without filtering it or replacing it with fresh air are not helpful in reducing airborne virus present in the room.
    • The following modifications to building HVAC system operation should be considered:
      • Increase outdoor air ventilation (disable demand-controlled ventilation and open outdoor air dampers to 100% as indoor and outdoor conditions permit).
      • Improve central air and other HVAC filtration to MERV-13 (ASHRAE2017b) or the highest level achievable. Change filters every 3-4 months.
      • Keep HVAC systems running longer hours (24/7 if possible, but a minimum of two hours prior to occupancy and through the duration of occupancy). Keep bathroom exhaust fans operating 24/7.
      • Use portable air cleaners. Use HEPA or high-MERV filters.
  • A September, 2020, article by VTDigger on schools and ventilation linked to the following resources:
    • Harvard University School of Public Health’s Healthy Buildings Program 62-page report (PDF). Pages 31-37 offer decision trees and resources to help increase air circulation.
    • Harvard Public health project recommends a standard of five air change rates per hour – i.e. indoor air replaced completely with outdoor air every 12 minutes.
    • Harvard University Facebook Live Q&A from the end of September 2020 discusses the importance of proper ventilation and the role of air particles in spreading COVID-19.
  • CDC Ventilation in Buildings page, including FAQs (updated 3/21)
  • CDC Guidance (Scroll to “Consider taking steps to improve ventilation in the building.”)
  • Air Cleaners, HVAC Filters, and Coronavirus (COVID-19) information from the EPA advises the following:
    • Consulting with an HVAC professional
    • Following ASHRAE technical guidelines
    • Not using ozone generators in occupied spaces
    • Upgrading air filters to the highest compatible with an HVAC system
    • Checking air filter fit to minimize filter air bypass
    • Using air cleaners to supplement HVAC systems

Potential Funding sources

  • Vermont Community Development Program – CDBG CARES Act Funding (CBDG-CV) (project completion deadline of 12/31/2021) - to assist communities and non-profits with grants for public facilities and service projects that have unmet needs due to COVID19 (such as HVAC upgrades)
  • Consider some of the suggestions on VTLIB’s Responding to Budget Cuts page
  • VT Community Foundation: VT COVID-19 Response Fund, Urgent and Special Needs, Fund, and other grant opportunities

(Updated 4/26/21)