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Reducing the risk of transmission through building ventilation

We are following the latest Government and UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines, and drawing on the latest research, to ensure that our buildings are properly ventilated.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that a good supply of outdoor air can help reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of spreading coronavirus. The latest research indicates that the risk of airborne transmission of coronavirus depends upon the number and spacing of people in an enclosed space, what they are doing, for how long and how well the space is ventilated. 

Mechanical ventilation maintenance and strategic maintenance projects

In rooms with mechanical ventilation, we have set the systems to supply as much fresh air as possible and we have turned off recirculation modes where appropriate. We are also turning on the systems earlier in the morning and leaving them on later in the evening. This equipment is being regularly assessed and cleaned, with filters being monitored and changed as appropriate.

To ensure all of our facilities are maintained in line with highest standards, UCL Estates undertakes a rolling program of projects to replace equipment that is beyond economic repair - prioritising those impacting Health and Safety and Statutory Compliance. All equipment impacting the amount of fresh air ventilating a space has been reclassified, gaining highest priority for action as soon as they can be executed.   

Natural ventilation

In spaces without mechanical ventilation, we are ensuring a fresh supply of air by leaving windows and doors open where appropriate. As a result, these spaces may be cooler in winter months and staff and students may wish to wear warmer clothing. 

We have carried out a survey of all spaces that are naturally ventilated to ensure they are operating effectively to supply fresh air. All defects found have been addressed.

Risk Assessment

Departments are responsible for ensuring their risk assessments are up to date.

Any issues or concerns about ventilation will be flagged with the Area Facility Management team who will either confirm the ventilation is OK (based on previous work) or issue a help desk ticket for the appropriate Estates Operations staff to attend. During the period from reporting to rectification the department will be advised to update their risk assessment to mitigate any identified risks. 

CO2 Monitoring

In certain rooms, CO2 monitoring can be a useful method of assessing the effectiveness of ventilation. As part of UCLs suite of measures to limit the spread of Covid 19 a project is being undertaken to:

  1. Install CO2 monitoring in Large Teaching Rooms and multi person occupied spaces that are suitable for their use.
  2. Verify all mechanical ventilation flow rates in teaching across the estate.

We have reviewed all spaces in the building against the parameters set out by the Health and Safety Executive and are surveying these spaces to verify and fix the sensor location with an installation contractor. Once completed the project will allow better management of the university spaces with respect to air quality.

Health and Safety and Government guidelines

The measures we are putting in place are in line with the guidance set by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who are the regulator of work-place Health and Safety. The measures outlines about follow their advice around increasing the supply of fresh air where possible improving the circulation of outside air, and preventing pockets of stagnant air in occupied spaces. 

Our building opening process and the measures outlined above are also in line with the UK Government advice to check if we need to service or adjust ventilation systems, and their advice that positive pressure systems and extractors of the kind usually found in laboratory spaces can operate as normal. The Government also advises that we consult with heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers if ventilation systems serve several buildings and we’re not sure if they need adjusting. We have a team of Building Services Engineers and contractors to ensure plant is constantly maintained, supplying optimally and able to respond in any fault scenario.  

Ventilation concerns or issues

If you have any concerns please contact your department or line manager in the first instance.

Please continue to report any maintenance issues (such as a window not opening) through the Estates Help Desk. 

Further questions

If you have a specific question about your individual circumstances please speak to your department or line manager in the first instance. If you have a more general question, please check that it has not already been answered on this site.

Students can contact us though the askUCL student enquiries system. Members of staff can contact us via our online form or alternatively you can email covidhelpline@ucl.ac.uk