General Facilities Enhancements
Updated December 23, 2021
Using industry best practices and enhanced service models, our frontline teams continue to work diligently to support campus operations. The various custodial and building operations enhancements listed below reflect current campus operations and will continue to be reviewed and revised, as needed.
Building-Specific Facilities Enhancements
In response to COVID-19, we've implemented various building-specific enhancements to support the medical center’s day-to-day operations.
The information listed below summarizes the basic design parameters for the medical center’s existing portfolio of Air Handling Units (AHUs) as well as outlines mitigation strategies introduced to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Any changes to AHU operations and mitigation strategies were the results of guidance received by government agencies as well as industry-leading organizations.
AHU System Background and Design Criteria
- The existing building systems were designed in accordance with the NYC building code, the International Mechanical Code, and the indoor air quality standards set forth by ASHRAE.
- The existing building systems were not designed to mitigate the spread of viruses such as COVID-19.
- Existing building HVAC systems were previously divided into (2) categories: (1) 100% Outside Air and (2) Recirculation Systems. There are 146 AHUs in total across the CUIMC portfolio of buildings; 70 were originally 100% outside air units with no recirculation, 76 were recirculation units.
Difference between an HVAC System and an Air Handling Unit
- An HVAC system includes all equipment related to Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems. It includes boiler plants, chiller plants, supply fans, exhaust fans, pumps, cooling towers, etc.
- An air handling unit (AHU) is just one (1) component of the overall HVAC system. The air handler is equipped with outside air dampers, heating coil, chilled water coil, and fan unit. They are equipped with controls to maintain temperature, air volume, pressure, and also safety devices.
- CUIMC laboratories have AHUs that are designed for 100% outside air; administrative areas, commercial offices, and classrooms have AHUs that are designed for recirculation systems, which is better economical on your energy.
Switching to All 100% Outside Air Systems
- 100% outside air systems do not recirculate air within occupied or unoccupied spaces. All fresh air that is brought into occupied spaces is carried out of the building through dedicated exhaust systems in a once-through fashion. Recirculation systems take air from all ventilated spaces and bring it back to a central AHU unit where it is mixed with a percentage of outside air in a plenum before contacting the filters. Air from all spaces is interchanged.
- The medical center was already equipped with 59 AHUs (43%) operating as 100% outside air systems that supply laboratories. These existing AHU systems will remain unchanged and continue to operate normally.
- Facilities Engineering successfully transitioned the remaining recirculating units to 100% outside air units.
Potential Impacts to Space Temperatures
- The medical center's laboratories were already equipped with 100% outside air systems. These existing AHU systems will remain unchanged and laboratories will continue to operate normally.
- Administrative areas, commercial offices, and classrooms that previously operated on recirculation systems may experience warmer space temperatures at times when the outside conditions are warmer and/or higher in humidity due to the design of the recirculation systems.
- Re-circulating units are installed with a smaller chilled water coil than a unit originally designed for 100% outside air.
To supplement other virus mitigation efforts including, but not limited to physical distancing, use of face coverings and enhanced cleaning measures, Facilities Engineering implemented additional building system enhancements:
- Replaced existing unit filter media to MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 or higher grade as recommended by the WHO, CDC, and ASHRAE. These filters are 90% more efficient with higher resistance to remove small particles and catch more pollutants from the airstream. Evaluated each fan for airflow rates based on the filter media needed.
- Increased outdoor air ventilation and general exhaust ventilation to the greatest extent possible.
- Transitioned 79 recirculating units to 100% outside air units.
- Minimized or eliminated recirculation of central AHU air.
- Maintained positive differential pressure across supply and return sections of heat recovery units to eliminate cross-contamination.
- Kept HVAC systems in operation for longer hours, 24/7 if possible, in order to facilitate the removal of virus particles from the building and to reduce the settlement of virus particles onto surfaces.
- For buildings without central HVAC systems, increased window airing.
- Maintained negative pressure in all toilet rooms to sweep air from the room and to minimize fecal-oral transmission from toilet flush aerosol. Operated toilet exhausts 24/7.
Automatic/Touchless Restroom Devices
- Our teams converted restroom fixtures in University buildings to operate automatically. These devices include touchless paper towel dispensers and/or automatic plumbing fixtures.
- These new fixtures will provide best practices in restroom hygiene and lower the risk for restroom users.
- Enhanced monitoring and maintenance of air filtration systems as recommended by the WHO, CDC, and ASHRAE. We are monitoring the pressure drop of the filters, supply temperature and humidity to ensure the best comfort to our customers.
We will continue processing routine work orders for anything that is malfunctioning or needs to be fixed in your areas. Facilities Engineering continues to monitor all critical building systems and equipment and respond to emergency and urgent situations, with all requests prioritized based on criticality for health, life, and safety first.
Using best practices and industry standards, Custodial Services enhanced its routine cleaning services to allow for increased frequency and additional cleaning.
- Custodial Services installed hand sanitizer dispensers in all lobbies, elevator landings, and security desks.
- Custodial staff members have increased the monitoring and maintenance of public restrooms to ensure soap dispensers are full to support frequent hand washing and facilities are regularly disinfected.
- Custodial staff also will ensure sanitary facilities remain operational and stocked at all times and provide additional soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer when needed.
- Custodial Services is using a misting pump to disinfect occupied offices and areas with soft surfaces (carpets, upholstery) weekly. This technique provides quick disinfecting of large open areas in a time-efficient and effective manner.
- View our enhanced custodial services.
Additionally, custodial managers are working with Environmental Health & Health and using other industry standards to review custodial operations. Some staff modifications include:
- Staggering shift times and breaks to accommodate staff
- Increasing staff training on enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures
- Providing additional times for custodians to clean their hands on the job
Updated December 23, 2021
Based on the latest CDC guidance, surface transmission is not the main route by which the virus causing COVID-19 spreads. To date, we have not seen any confirmed transmission between people touching surfaces. Since the risk is considered low, and the University is fully vaccinated, additional facilities cleaning is not recommended.
- All public spaces will continued to be cleaned daily.
- CUIMC's custodial services team cleans affected non-laboratory areas as part of their standard routine, while affected laboratory spaces are cleaned according to departmental protocols.
- Please see additional guidance published via the EH&S Fact Sheets that were created to provide concise information to the Columbia University community on important topics related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- A Day in the Life: Daily Hygiene Protocols to Prevent COVID-19 outlines normal daily self-cleaning of individual work stations (Fact Sheet #7).
- Updates for the University COVID-19 contact trace and cleaning protocols (Fact Sheet #20)
Schools or departments may request specific cleaning and disinfecting services in addition to Custodial Services' standard cleaning routine (see above).
- Requests for deep cleaning and disinfecting, cleaning between classes/patient visits, or event-based cleaning are considered supplemental to the standard custodial routine. Supplemental cleaning and disinfecting services are chargeable and may be requested by submitting a work order request.
CUIMC loading docks are fully staffed and in operation. Please review our loading dock hours of operation.
- We encourage you to schedule deliveries in advance as much as possible.
- We will be rolling out a scheduling solution that all delivery vendors will use to access our loading docks. Additional information will be shared later at a later time.
The main CUIMC Mailroom is open on a modified schedule:
- New hours for mail pick-up: 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.
While the mailroom continues to be open for business, mailroom staff will be practicing physical distancing
- One mail clerk will be available at the counter to assist individuals.
- One mail clerk will be responsible for pulling the mail from the back of the mailroom.
- We encourage individuals to regularly retrieve their mail and consider switching their paper mail to electronic mail wherever possible.