GSA Fails to Upgrade Air Filtration

HVAC Efficiency | HVAC Equipment | Maintenance

GSA Fails to Upgrade Air Filtration

GSA Fails to Upgrade Air Filtration

Agency has not brought air filtration systems in some federal buildings up to the higher CDC post-pandemic standards

The inspector general’s office at the General Services Administration (GSA) recently said the agency had not brought air filtration systems in some federal buildings up to the higher CDC standards resulting from the pandemic, according to FEDweek.

The report notes that ASHRAE guidance–and by extension–the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that facility managers upgrade HVAC filters to the equivalent of a MERV 13 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating to minimize the risk of disease transmission.[1]

But the GSA Inspector General found that the Public Buildings Service “cannot install the recommended air filters in some GSA-owned facilities because the aging HVAC systems cannot handle MERV 13 air filters.

It said that in examining 17 GSA-owned buildings, it found that because of their age, the HVAC systems of eight could not accommodate such filters; trying to use them “would reduce airflow and potentially cause the systems to fail.”

Fortunately, there is an easy-to-implement alternative for these and the millions of HVAC systems that were never intended to perform with MERV 13+ air filters.

Through a layered approach, also recommended by ASHRAE, facility engineers can combine medium-efficiency filters (MERV 8) with germicidal UV‑C energy to meet or exceed MERV 13 pathogen removal performance without sacrificing airflow or compromising cooling capacity.

In other words, using a layered approach, thousands of building managers can comply with federal indoor air quality recommendations without limiting airflow and obstructing HVAC system operation.

Third-party, independent testing has shown that combining UV‑C together with a MERV 8 prefilter exceeded a 99% average single-pass reduction of the aerosolized SARS‑CoV‑2 virus.[2]

Moreover, the low-pressure drop associated with the MERV 8 air filter, as compared to the MERV 13, significantly reduces needed fan horsepower (e.g., saves HVAC energy consumption and maintenance costs.)

Germicidal UV-C also complements other engineering controls designed to mitigate disease transmission. ASHRAE and public health agencies recommend a multi-layered approach [3] incorporating several infection-control measures, such as UV-C disinfection, to help ensure that whatever pathogen cannot be removed by one method (say filtering or cleaning) is inactivated by another (UV-C). “Implementing multiple tools at the same time is consistent with CDC’s layered approach and will increase overall effectiveness of ventilation interventions.”[4]

[1] ASHRAE. ASHRAE Technical Resources; Filtration and Disinfection FAQ. Retrieved from https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/filtration-and-disinfection-faq

[2] Saputa, Dean, Jones, Daniel. 2022. Combining UV C and MERV 8 Filters Exceed MERV 13 Pathogen Removal Performance. Retrieved from https://uvresources.com/UV C-merv-8-hvac-filters-outperform-merv-13-pathogen-removal-performance/

[3] ASHRAE Technical Resources, Filtration/Disinfection, Combining Air Cleaning Options. Retrieved from https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/filtration-disinfection#combining

[4] CDC COVID-19; Facility Cleaning & Ventilation, Ventilation in Buildings. Jun. 2, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/ventilation.html