Messages to the Community

Update on Campus HVAC Systems and Safety

A message from Thomas Whalen, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management

Dear members of the New School Community,

As we look forward to the start of the semester on Monday, we are writing to share an update on the status of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in our buildings. This work is one important component of our broader safe return to campus planning that is anchored in widespread vaccination, regular testing, and mask requirements for everyone in our community.

We have conducted an exhaustive study of our HVAC systems and are pleased to report that every space on campus, including all classrooms, offices, and public areas, will be available for the fall semester. While the existing HVAC equipment is sufficient, we are providing supplementary HEPA filtration units in some spaces to improve ventilation to an even higher standard; a process we anticipated many months ago and is well underway. Our priority is instructional spaces, and specifically any spaces without a window. In the early stages of the pandemic, we ensured that all HVAC equipment was operating to its design specifications and all MERV filtration was increased to the highest possible level. Throughout this process, our planning has been informed by ongoing COVID-related direct guidance from government and public health agencies, expertise from university teams, and insights from the NYC Colleges and Universities COVID Council.

The measurement and calculation of air flow in each space was carried out in collaboration with consultants from ME Engineers. ME clients represent some of the world’s largest owners and operators of complex healthcare, science, education, sports, commercial, and public assembly buildings. The study group also included consultation with faculty members with expertise in architecture, building systems, and bioscience. The measurements began in April and concluded in late June.

The primary measure for increasing ventilation will be through the use of additional HEPA filtration units. We have installed HEPA units in every instructional space that does not have a window to ensure all rooms provide the safest possible environment for every member of our community. A summary of instructional spaces and the measures taken is being updated in real time as my team completes a detailed review of each room. I will also share details from the study early next week on the Health and Safety page of the COVID-19 Community Guide.

We recognize that many in our community have concerns about returning to campus, and our ventilation system is one important layer in our multi-level approach to create a safe, healthy, and welcoming environment. Please know that we will continue to actively monitor the functioning of our air exchange and filtration systems to help keep everyone healthy and safe while enjoying the rich in-person experience that awaits us this fall.

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