Ventilation matters

How the University is managing the risks associated with COVID-19 being an airborne virus

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, it became apparent that a key method of transmission was via aerosols and air flow.

There are many factors helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus. They include vaccination, testing and isolation, cleaning, ventilation, personal behaviour, face masks, welfare-first COVID‑19 case management and flexible working arrangements.

Like all airborne pathogens, the principles for minimising transmission through air in our buildings include:

  • Ventilation with fresh outside air reduces the concentration of airborne contaminants
  • Filtration of recirculating air reduces the concentration of airborne virus particles
  • Minimising the transfer of air between spaces reduces opportunities for the virus to spread through a building via the air-conditioning flow patterns

The University of Melbourne has implemented a variety of ventilation and filtration infrastructure controls to protect the University community from indoor airborne transmission of COVID-19, including:

  • Assessing ventilation systems and control measures – the majority of assessed buildings have either Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems or operable windows capable of ensuring adequate air intake and exchange
  • Increasing ventilation via mechanical or natural means where necessary – where the system is unable to ensure to adequate air intake and exchange, other mitigations, such as portable air purifiers have been deployed
  • Filtration of recirculating air to remove more airborne virus particles
  • Real-time monitoring of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels as a proxy to evaluate airborne virus risk and adequate fresh air supply – monitors have been installed in teaching spaces and some other spaces to actively monitor air quality. These are monitored by a central team who take action as needed, such as adjusting ventilation settings or deploying portable air purifiers.
  • Operating procedures and maintenance cycles updated
  • Directing air flow away from people where possible
  • Changing HVAC filters as part of deep cleaning process following a confirmed COVID-19 case being present in a space

We’re also encouraging students and staff to increase their use of outdoor areas where possible for outdoor classrooms, informal study, walking meetings, meals and other breaks.

At a glance: find out more about ventilation at the University of Melbourne.