If you’ve eaten a meal in Higgins Café or attended an event in Tilton Hall over the last month, you may have noticed a few additions to each space. Clark recently invested in new clean air technology to create a healthier environment for the campus community, installing several large, ion-generating ceiling fans in both areas of the Higgins University Center.
The fans, produced by a Kentucky-based company, use a bipolar ionizer to generate electrically charged particles that attack and destroy pathogens in the air and on surfaces. In April, two fans were installed in Higgins Café and one was installed in Tilton Hall. In the coming weeks, two more will be added to the Kneller Athletic Center.
“The fans have been shown to kill 99.99% of the virus at the root of the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Clark’s Assistant Director of Technical Trades Gardner Peters. “The long-term benefit is that if we have another outbreak, we’ll have the systems in there, but the fans also help with air flow. It creates a nicer environment with the fans running 24/7.”
The fans replace temporary HVAC units that Clark University installed last year to increase air flow through Higgins Café.
“Ventilation has a huge impact on staying healthy through this pandemic. Knowing that having healthy air was going to be important, the University made a very wise decision to double down on ventilation by examining areas to find out where we were suboptimal,” says Daniel Roderick, director of Facilities Management. “With that information, we were able to plug those holes with temporary rental units, which weren’t a permanent solution but capable of getting us to this point.”
The University decided to invest in the ion-generating fans after securing an engineering firm to assess campus facilities. The new fans are not only more efficient than the temporary HVAC units, but they also free up window space, allowing more light back into Higgins Café. Peters adds that the fans will also help Clark cut down on cooling costs during the summer months.
“The manufacturer came in and set up a testing unit that measured the factory-specified amount of ions flowing through the room,” he says. “I know at what capacity we can run those fans and still have the recommended amount of ionization.”
According to the manufacturer, the system kills 97% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air in 30 minutes and 99.99% in 60 minutes. The fans also eliminate other pathogens, killing 96% of bacteria and fungi on surfaces in 60 minutes and 99.9% of other viruses on surfaces in the same time frame.
The fans also come at a one-time cost for the University and require little preventative maintenance, according to Peters.
“They’re custom designed for your space, so they came here and did a complete measurement of every area where these will be installed so we get full air flow,” he says. “It’s a much more efficient system.”