STU to complete update of ventilation system by Feb. 7, two classrooms left

    An open vent is sealed with tape in a shared bathroom inside Vaniel Hall at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. on Jan. 13, 2022. (Giuliana Grillo De Lambarri/AQ)

    A previous version of this article published on Jan. 23 stated ASHRAE tested the airflow in STU classrooms. In fact, an external engineer tested the airflow according to ASHRAE standards. We regret the error.

    The Aquinian would like to clarify the previous headline in the article stated that 80 per cent of classrooms met ventilation standard. But because that percentage has been updated since October, it is clearer to say “STU to complete update of ventilation system by Feb. 7, two classrooms left.” 

    There’s only so much an open window can do. So, before St. Thomas University students are welcomed back on campus amidst the Omicron variant, STU had some changes to make to its ventilation system. An external engineer tested the airflow in STU classrooms in order to make improvements.

    Philip Cliff, STU’s director of facilities management, said when the airflow was tested back in August, around 80 per cent of classrooms met or exceeded standards according to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Since then, STU had to work on the rest of the classrooms, replacing parts of the ventilation system for better airflow.

    “[The engineer] identified some deficiencies where they were getting a little bit less airflow than technically designed,” said Cliff. “That would indicate that there’s actuators and so on that open and close those dampers that weren’t working properly that we had to have replaced.”

    At this time, there is only one ventilator left to replace in Holy Cross before students return to campus on Feb. 7.

    “It’s all been addressed over that period of time from the fall to the winter, except for that one small unit in Holy Cross, affecting two classrooms,” said Jeffrey Carleton, vice-president of communications at STU.

    The tests were only conducted in classrooms, not in residences or offices, since classrooms have more people interacting in a space at the same time. 

    “We don’t have concerns with all the other little individual areas where one or two people may be, it’s where there were larger groups,” said Cliff. “[Dorms weren’t] considered as part of [the tests] because of ventilations on providing the fresh air and it’s just you or two people in one room, where [in classrooms there] would be anywhere from eight to 60 students.”

    Cliff said residence life implemented protocols such as lowering building capacities and maintaining social distancing to minimize the infection risk in common areas.

    “We did restrict the number of people that could be in a lounge … [residences] were at 50 per cent of the building capacity,” said Cliff.

    Carleton said while no students approached him with concerns, STU held a meeting with faculty to answer questions and reassure professors.

    “We have circulated to all faculty members the minutes from those meetings and the answers to the questions and Dr. Fenwick has given them a status update with regards to Holy Cross,” said Carleton.

    “It’s a matter of us sitting down with technical experts and giving [professors] the opportunity to ask any question [to which] they [want] an answer.”