Columbia to Add Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) to HVAC systems

This fall Columbia College Chicago will update some of the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in 9 of its buildings with Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) technology as part of its efforts to minimize COVID-19 risk on campus. This technology, bundled with other precautions and strategies in the College’s reopening plan, adds another layer of safety in spaces where individuals on campus are more likely to aerosolize respiratory droplets.

UVGI is not a new technology. It is used by the United States Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to isolate airborne diseases such as tuberculosis, measles. Hospitals and call centers are currently using it to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employers “consider using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplemental technique to inactivate potential airborne viruses.”

The college will be installing the technology in buildings or parts of buildings where individuals either exert themselves (ex. musical performances, dance, and stage combat) or where individuals engage in other activities that, like exertion, produce aerosols. While droplets produced in the process of speaking are heavier and drop down quickly, aerosolized COVD-19 can remain in the air longer. It is these aerosols that UVGI will be installed to address.

“UVGI disinfects the air by inactivating or killing microorganisms and pathogens,” said Ann P. Kalayil, associate vice president of Facilities and Operations at Columbia College Chicago. “UVGI is designed to further enhance indoor air quality in classrooms where exertion and projection are more likely to occur.”

In addition to installing UVGI technology in some of its HVAC units, Facilities will continue to replace filters in each of its units campus-wide quarterly with high-quality pleated MERV 8 filters.

“Our first and best line of defense is the combination of enhanced cleaning and hygiene, social distancing and requiring masks, which are now shown in scientific studies to protect the wearer as well as those around them,” said Laurent Pernot, chief of staff. “However, as in the case of UVGI, we are constantly assessing and updating our plans to determine if there are other opportunities to further promote health on the campus.”

Kalayil says building engineers have already started preparing the units for installation with the expectation of the work being completed when the fall semester begins.

The following buildings will have UVGI installed in the HVAC systems:

· 72 E. 11th 754 S. Wabash

· 1306 S. Michigan

· 1600 S. State

· 1104 S. Wabash (1st floor)

· 33 E. Ida B. Wells (basement)

· 1014 S. Michigan (1st, 2nd, and 4th floors)

· 618 S. Michigan (basement, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors)

· 916 S. Wabash (2nd floor of the south side of the building)

· 72 E. 11th (Basement; 1st floor; 2nd floor; 3rd floor: 301, 303, 305, 307, 309, 311, 313; 4th floor: 402, 404, 408, 410; 5th floor: 501, 503, 504, 505A, 505B, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511; 6th floor: 602, 605, 607, 609, 611, 613, 615)