As the University returns to campus, Facilities is sharing guidance with schools, departments, and units about plans for keeping buildings properly ventilated for the safety of our community. Facilities has been meeting and gathering input from experts from the Office of Research Safety (ORS), Risk Management, University Health Services and outside ventilation consultants to develop these guidelines. 

Our goal is to protect the health and well-being of our community to the greatest extent possible. To do so, we are continuing to implement the best cleaning standards and along with optimal air flow and air quality.  


After review of the most current scientific evidence and federal and state guidelines, ORS, Risk Management, University Health Services, and Facilities continue to use a multi-layered approach, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Combined with workplace strategy, the CDC has identified vaccinations as essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19, along with physical distancing, masking and proper hand hygiene.

 Along with the requirement of vaccinations for students, staff and faculty, Facilities will continue performing consistent preventative maintenance updates on Northwestern’s ventilation systems, while simultaneously operating those systems as close as possible to their operating specifications. This will best ensure proper air filtration, appropriate outdoor air quantities, sufficient air quality and specified air flow. With regard to ventilation changes, as of now, there is inconclusive scientific evidence to make major modifications to existing ventilation systems, such as installing UV systems, ionizers and changing air flow speeds. Working to operate the University’s diverse ventilation systems as close to specifications as possible will help ensure the proper ventilation of all spaces, including managing outside air mix, air quality and air velocity on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. In most instances, these measures are sufficient in protecting our community members from SARS-CoV-2 but, in some cases, supplemental air purifiers may be considered.

Portable air cleaners or air purifiers that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning may be considered in unique settings where there is an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and ventilation is not adequate, such as clinical settings or COVID-19 vaccination sites where physical distancing and masking is recommended along with vaccination. In most cases, because of the current preventative maintenance measures that are being taken, it is highly likely a supplemental air purifier is not needed and not recommended.

In addition, Facilities has maintained and will continue to perform the following activities to help mitigate COVID-19 related issues: 

Facilities is monitoring new information with data-driven evidence and, in doing so, will review any new insights and evidence as the industry learns more.