Reducing the risk of transmission through cleaning and 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 clean and properly ventilated.



We have implemented an enhanced cleaning regime to help reduce the risk of transmission on campus. Our approach – which is in line with guidance from the UK Government and the HSE – is consistent with the approach of other HE institutions.

Enhanced cleaning protocol 

All areas are now cleaned with Oxivir, an accelerated hydrogen peroxide cleaning agent used by NHS in clinical settings. 

All areas are cleaned between 5am and 8am each morning, except those with restricted access. This includes the cleaning of: 

  • all hard and carpeted floors, 
  • surfaces (up to 2 metres), 
  • all touch points, 
  • lifts, 
  • staircases, 
  • entrances, 
  • receptions, 
  • toilets, 
  • kitchens, 
  • work surfaces (if clear of work), 
  • and hand wash sinks within labs (other areas within labs are cleaned only if notified via the safe to clean process).

We are carrying out a second daytime clean of high touch point areas as advised by Government  and HSE guidance. This includes refreshing toilets, kitchens and other communal spaces as well as wiping surfaces where required.

Enhanced provision of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser

On top of these measures we are ensuring that additional disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser is available in all high use areas. Staff and students are encouraged to continue to regularly wash their hands and to wipe down work and study areas before use. We are also providing hand sanitiser and surface wipes to over 400 teaching spaces to assist personal COVID hygiene security.

Cleaning concerns or issues

  • Lab and workshop staff remain responsible for cleaning their own workbenches and equipment and should contact Safety Services for further advice. 
  • For guidance on what to do in the case of a potential case of coronavirus please refer to the responding to potential coronavirus cases at UCL page.
  • Please continue to report any issues related to cleaning through the Estates Help Desk.


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. This risk is further reduced by the use of face coverings, increasing the movement of air, and regular surface cleaning. 

Teams have worked to ensure that all ventilation arrangements are optimised as well as putting in place a range of measures to help reduce the risk of transmission.  In rooms with mechanical ventilation, we are setting the systems to supply as much fresh air provided 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. In spaces without mechanical ventilation, we will ensure 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. 

Mechanical ventilation maintenance and strategic maintenance projects

We have turned off recirculation on all mechanical ventilation systems and they are set to supply full fresh air. Estates services have prioritised maintenance of this equipment to ensure all that they are all fully functioning ahead of the start of term and will be 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

We’re carrying out a survey of all spaces that are naturally ventilated to ensure they are operating effectively to supply fresh air and only have two buildings left to review. So far we have only found a few defects which we are addressing.

Risk Assessment

Safety Services have updated the institutional risk assessment. Due to the nature of the estate, and the fact that we have previously checked most areas, we have agreed on the following approach to review issues or concerns about ventilation:

  • All departments will update their existing risk assessment
  • Any concerns relating to ventilation will be flagged with the Area Facility Management team who will either confirm the ventilation is OK (based on previous work) or issue 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. 

Where a risk is identified we will put in place further measures such as:

  • reducing the time people spend in these spaces;
  • increasing social distancing;
  • limiting certain deep breathing activities such as singing and exercising;
  • and providing additional fans.
CO2 Monitoring

In certain rooms, CO2 monitoring can be a useful method of assessing the effectiveness of ventilation and we are currently rolling out a trial at the Institute of Education (IOE) to assess the usefulness of CO2 monitoring at UCL.

We have reviewed all spaces in the building against the parameters set out by the Health and Safety Executive and surveyed these spaces to verify and fix the location with an installation contractor. We have also analysed room data from across the entire estate and have identified locations so that we are ready to take action following the result of the trial at the IoE. 

Which Health and Safety and Government guidelines are UCL following to ensure campus is properly ventilated?

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

  • We understand that you may still be concerned about spending time in a room with no obvious ventilation or where there may be people who are not wearing face coverings. 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 more general question, please check that it has not already been answered on our Coronavirus FAQ or on our Keeping Safe on Campus webpages. If it hasn’t, students can contact us through the askUCL student enquiries system and members of UCL staff can submit a question about keeping safe on campus via our online form, or alternatively you can email covidhelpline@ucl.ac.uk. If you would like to speak to someone on the phone, please call our helpline on 0203 108 5699. Lines are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.