Maximizing COVID Mitigation Projects on Campus

Posted by Stuart Heisey on Monday, April 26, 2021

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Use data-driven strategies to tackle urgent challenges with long-term vision

Are you trying to upgrade your spaces to get your students and instructors back to full-time in-person learning environments? Don’t forget to pause for a moment, to find possible alignment with your long-term goals and check as many items off your “to-do list” as possible. Here are two keys to maximizing your upgrades along with some tips to get you started.

Tie HEERF II funding to existing DM projects

To address HVAC and facility improvements in response to COVID-19 virus transmission concerns, some institutions of higher education (IHEs) are taking advantage of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II (HEERF II), which has been authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) to distribute funds for education support in addition to the funding provision of the original CARES Act signed last spring.

Additionally, another common struggle among IHEs is an increasing backlog of deferred maintenance (DM) projects, which has likely been amplified (or drowned out) as a result of limited or redirected funding due to the pandemic. Do you see where we’re going with this?

HEERF II funds can be used for deferred maintenance (DM), renewal, and upgrades where a COVID risk reduction can be validated. Don't miss the chance to pay for renewal and upgrades for your aging systems by implementing a system-wide COVID mitigation strategy rather than an add-on “band-aid” that you throw away in a year. This is best applied when an organization has facility condition assessment (FCA) data (or a list of DM and/or at risk/aging equipment). But if you don’t have current data a few pointed meetings should be able to identify likely candidates.

Note: For those who elect to use this support to directly finance improvement projects for occupied spaces, project turn-around time is aggressive; in most cases, IHEs must expend funds within one calendar year from the date of award.

Know which spaces are truly your high transmission risk spaces

Don't waste funds (HEERF II or otherwise) applying a single strategy across all systems/spaces. Evaluate first to eliminate low-risk systems, then find two or three strategies to apply to higher-risk systems based on system type and space occupancy scenarios.

Conduct indoor air quality (IAQ) and transmission risk assessments using a risk calculator, which will help you understand how to prioritize spaces and systems based on occupancy and risk levels. In addition to prioritizing the highest risk spaces, the risk analysis can identify the best strategies to provide improved indoor air quality and long-term viral resilience.

Note: Be careful, applying a “one-size fits all” solution might unnecessarily result in frustrating humidity issues or excess energy consumption. Use what you learn about your spaces to make data-driven decisions to prioritize and implement measurable mitigation solutions that simultaneously consider both short and long-term implications.

Getting started

If you’re one of the trailblazers who is faced with the task of figuring out how to spend wisely to mitigate risk of in-person learning, here are questions you can use to analyze and prioritize each system:

  • Is the space high risk for in-person activities? Does it have a need for risk mitigation or IAQ improvements to return to in-person activities?
  • Is the system a deferred maintenance liability, and how close is it to end-of-life? What is the actual current condition of the system?
  • Logistics: Can the desired work be completed in the funding timeframe? Is there swing space to enable implementation quickly?
  • Are there energy savings opportunities or alternative approaches to offset or avoid the increase in energy that many IAQ or risk mitigation improvements cause?
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Stuart Heisey, PE

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Categories: Buildings & Campus

Tagged: Mechanical  |  Budgeting & Funding  |  Facility Planning & Management  |  Engineering  |  Health & Safety  |  COVID-19

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