VU Amsterdam closely follows the discussion on the possible spread of Corona through ventilation systems in buildings and also receives questions on how the ventilation systems at VU Amsterdam work.
We think it is important to explain how the systems work at VU Amsterdam, how the RIVM guidelines are applied and whether additional measures are necessary for VU Amsterdam. We take all possible measures to maximise the use of the ventilation systems in our buildings for air refreshment. We adhere to the recommendations and rules for ventilation in the Buildings Act and the instructions of the RIVM, and we regularly consult with the Municipal Health Services (GGD). By adequately following this advice and guidance, we are doing what can be expected of us and are helping to minimise the risk of contamination through ventilation. VU Amsterdam is dependent on the latest scientific knowledge available about the possible spread of the virus via ventilation. We are therefore unable to give any guarantees that there is a 0% risk to anyone. What we can do is closely follow the guidelines of the RIVM and the instructions of the GGD and quickly adjust our approach in the event of new insights.
Ventilation systems at VU Amsterdam
Our systems comply with the rules for air ventilation in the Dutch Buildings Act and also with the guidelines of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Our buildings are not all the same. One building is older than the other; one is fully connected to an air-conditioning system; another is partially connected to an air-conditioning system. In laboratories and specific research environments, other air treatment systems (for example in combination with fume cupboards) are applicable than in offices and educational environments.
The systems are operated in such a way that the ventilation in the buildings, old or new, is as good as possible. All ventilation systems in our buildings are maintained by professional personnel and checked on the actual functioning of these systems. The air-conditioning systems are maintained up-to-date and kept in good condition. FCO's Property Management department is responsible for this. This department takes care of maintenance and operations with its own technical people and in cooperation with contract partners. We attach importance to proper functioning and carry out additional checks on a daily basis.
Is air quality monitored?
The air quality (CO2) is actively monitored by the building management systems of VU Amsterdam. This monitoring shows that the air quality is in accordance with the RIVM standards. We have various automated measuring systems in the buildings that monitor the air quality in real time. As soon as a critical limit is reached, a report is immediately sent out. This is picked up immediately and assessed on the spot to determine whether measures need to be taken. In addition, manual measurements are taken daily in the various buildings. There is increased alertness and speed in the response and handling of reports (questions and complaints) relating to climate and ventilation. Complaints about the climate are sometimes confused with complaints about ventilation. The fact that it is too hot or too cold does not mean that the ventilation is not in order.
At what capacity do ventilation systems currently run at VU Amsterdam?
The ventilation capacity is set for 100% utilisation. This means that we use the maximum ventilation capacity. This maximum ventilation capacity is also sufficient if the one-and-a-half metre measure is dropped, and the campus becomes more crowded again. It is important that the maximum number of persons in a room is not exceeded.
There are, however, differences between buildings in terms of the installation set-up. Not all VU buildings are equipped with fully mechanical ventilation systems. Sometimes there is top cooling (top cooling means that there is a maximum of 2-3 degrees of cooling compared to the outside air), sometimes windows can be opened, or combinations of systems. For example, in the W&N Building, in the T and U wing and the 4th floor P corridor on the south side, there is no mechanical ventilation system, or only a partial one. There are other possibilities of bringing fresh air in through opening windows and/or ventilation grilles. This also applies to the smaller buildings such as BelleVUe and Filosofenhof. In MF Building, various combinations of systems are also present.
Is fresh air or recirculation used?
One of the topics in the discussion on ventilation is the extent to which fresh air is used or the air present is recirculated. Recirculation is a technique whereby part of the air present in the building, which still meets the air quality requirements, is recirculated so that the air handling installations do not always have to process 100% of the outside air (for example, cooling, heating, dehumidifying).
We currently adjusted the installations so that fresh outside air is used for ventilation as much as possible. The recirculation has been turned off. As a result, the extracted air from the buildings is now blown directly outside.
In addition to normal operations, we start the installations of the buildings two hours before the buildings open and let them run for two hours after the buildings close before switching them to night mode (with less ventilation).
From the point of view of sustainable energy use, installations often also need recirculation to operate in more extreme weather conditions. When the outside temperature drops, it may not be possible to meet the temperature or humidity standards in all buildings. Also, on warmer days, we draw in more warm air from outside, which can cause the indoor temperature to be higher than normal.
If situations arise in which this may become a problem, it is determined in consultation with the Operational Crisis Team and then the Strategic Policy Team whether actions should be taken. For example, if the temperature in the building becomes too cold or too hot.
Some locations on campus already have different ventilation rules as standard, will these remain the same?
In certain (research) areas, such as labs (for example, fume cupboards), the dissecting room, the MF walk-in room and the Human Performance lab at the Medical Faculty, additional or separate requirements already apply in 'normal operations'. These situations already have a different set-up for their environments in terms of ventilation. No additional measures are required here at present.
I want to know more about the ventilation at VU Amsterdam
With this information, we want to point out which measures VU Amsterdam has taken in the ventilation of buildings. Property Management and the crisis team closely follow the developments, discussions and recommendations of the government (and therefore RIVM) and will take follow-up measures if necessary.
We did everything possible to maintain and adjust the installation properly under these special circumstances.
For further information or specific information in a building or lab, please contact the On-Site Campus Team Onfirstname.lastname@example.org.