CSUMB ready for repopulation with upgraded air filtration

Augie Eclarin, from Facilities, holding a MERV 8 (left) and MERV 13 filters

Augie Eclarin, from Facilities, holding MERV 8 (left) and MERV 13 air filters. Photo by Florenz Tuazon.

August 23, 2021

By Walter Ryce

The Repopulation Steering Committee has addressed many of the campus community’s concerns about returning to work, including the issue of air quality in the workplace.

While people can actively participate in protective measures like masking, hand washing, and sanitizing, air quality is largely unseen and unheard.

In response, the facilities management department created a briefing presentation on what measures they have undertaken to keep air quality safe for return to campus.

The presentation is titled Campus Repopulation: Building Readiness for Fall 2021, and the preface begins, “The CDC recommends a layered strategy to reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

A layered strategy includes things like vaccination, masking, physical distancing, testing, cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and staying home when ill.

These strategies have been addressed by CSUMB’s Health and Wellness Services; the Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management; and university administration.

Another layer in the strategy is ventilation. Facilities addresses and explains ventilation in the presentation, referencing the CDC, Cal/OSHA, California Department of Public Health, and others. The checklist of ventilation system improvements includes:

  1. Making sure air filters are properly sized and within their service life, and increasing air filtration and airflow as greatly as possible
  2. Professional cleaning of all building ventilation ducts
  3. Making sure ventilation systems and restroom exhaust fans are operating properly
  4. Having portable HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter fans
  5. Upgrading air filters campus-wide

Joseph “Joe” Nugent, director of Facilities Services and Operations, said, “We have increased outside air intake as recommended by the CSU. We have repaired many old HVAC units and the control systems that help us with settings in buildings.”

Facilities has also changed out MERV 8 filters in all campus buildings with more effective MERV 13 filters, which have more pleats, are thicker, and use electrostatic charge to remove particulates.

Augie Eclarin, a 14-year employee and the lead building service engineer, said, “A lot of this is on the roof or in mechanical rooms.”

So employees cannot see it, but systems are in place — including buildings with double filtration — and are being monitored regularly.

“I have not heard of any campus having analyzed their HVAC systems to the extent we have,” Nugent said. “We’re cleaning every duct on campus and making the repairs to systems to meet CSU recommendations.”

He also said that CSUMB has an advantage. The university has an experienced team in place, including a building HVAC commissioning consultant, specialized controls contractors, a project management team, and a highly-regarded maintenance staff.

“They have all worked around the clock to accomplish the impossible in time for the repopulation of our campus,” Nugent said. “All of the buildings are ready for our campus community.”