Air Quality and Ventilation

Understand UB’s air quality and ventilation practices.

UB Position Regarding the Use of Air Purifying Units (APUs) on Campus

Updated 9/16/21

Following CDC recommendation, the University at Buffalo (UB) utilizes a layered approach to reduce the risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This layered approach includes vaccination, face covering requirements, health screening tools, hygiene, regular surveillance testing as well as ensuring appropriate building ventilation. 

CDC has published updated ventilation guidance throughout the pandemic, and the university has continued to evaluate and optimize ventilation systems on our campuses based on CDC and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance.

Preventative steps taken by UB have included inspection and maintenance of campus building HVAC systems, increasing the amount of outdoor air, improving overall airflow, extending operational hours, and increasing filtration where feasible.

One auxiliary ventilation strategy recommended by the CDC for high-risk areas (such as health clinics, vaccination and medical testing locations, workout rooms, or high-density public waiting areas) is the use of portable HEPA filtration air purifying units (APUs). UB’s Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) unit is working to identify spaces where APUs may be added to improve conditions in poorly ventilated spaces.  

The CDC recognizes that APUs are not a substitute for a well-maintained and properly balanced HVAC system. Rather APUs are meant for auxiliary cleaning of air in areas where a risk assessment has identified the potential for increased risk.  It is important to note that APUs are considered an emerging technology by the CDC and that in many cases where appropriate ventilation already exists, their use may not offer a benefit, and may even create a higher disease transmission risk.  For example, directional air flow from fans and wall-mounted air conditioners has been implicated in the spread of COVID-19 in a number of indoor settings, including restaurants.

In accordance with current CDC and ASHREA guidance, UB is not recommending the use of APUs for non-high risk, general occupied areas.  However, we do recognize that some may feel an individual desire for an APU in their space.  UB will not provide funding for APUs in personal spaces unless UB Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) approves the purchase. 

Purchase of APU units is the responsibility of the ordering unit or the individual, and will be approved only after EH&S review and approval of the need for the unit, and with the specified documentation.

The Purchase Process

If individuals or UB units wish to purchase an APU with UB funds, the following process is required:

All APUs must be fan-driven units, preferably with a HEPA filter. Other air purifying methodologies such as ionization and UV-C have not been fully vetted for health and safety in enclosed spaces and will not be allowed. 

  1. Individual employees should first talk to their supervisor regarding their concern and receive signed approval from the department head to locate the unit in the area.
  2. Supervisor should contact EH&S with their request for an APU. EH&S will determine if an APU is necessary.
    1. If EH&S determines that an APU is not necessary:
      1. an individual may still purchase an APU at their own cost, but must follow the guidelines below
      2. department purchases will not be funded
  3. If EH&S determines that an APU is required, the requesting department may use departmental funds to make purchase. Departments should include EH&S sign-off with purchase request to Purchasing and Contract Services. Any ongoing costs and maintenance for the unit, including filter changes using basic infection control procedures (PPE, bag-out, etc.) and component cleaning, are the sole responsibility of the individual or purchasing unit.
  4. Departments should:
    1. Select a location for the unit where directional airflow from the unit exhaust is directed away from other personnel (e.g., toward an unoccupied corner of the room).
    2. Ensure that all individuals in the area are comfortable with the operation of unit.
    3. Plug the unit directly into a wall outlet. The unit must be 120v compatible and draw 7.5 amps or less to avoid electrical/fire hazards.
    4. Turn the unit off at the end of the workday to prevent fire risk and conserve energy
    5. Report all circuit breaker trips via a work order to University Facilities Customer Service.  Unqualified individuals are not allowed to open panels and reset breakers.
    6. Remove the units from the premises after the COVID pandemic, as continued operation is not consistent with UB energy goals.
  5. Individuals and departments that receive APUs must continue to maintain all UB COVID health & safety requirements


EHS avatar.

Environment, Health & Safety

Service Building, 220 Winspear Ave.

Phone: 716-829-3301