6 August 2022
By email: [FYI request #19880 email]
Tēnā koe Ti
Official information request regarding ventilation in University buildings
I refer to your request for information under the Official Information Act 1982 (the Act)
dated 11 July 2022:
“Please advise me of the steps the University has taken to improve ventillation of
University buildings, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, since January 1, 2020.
Please provide me with the total budget allocations for ventilation improvement
since January 1, 2020. Please break this down to the smallest line item possible.
Please provide me with all advice and memoranda provided to the Vice
“Chancellor and Council regarding ventilation since January 1, 2020.
Steps taken to improve ventilation
The University’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic following the removal of
lockdown restrictions was a change to a remote working and teaching model. The
subsequent reduction in the number of staff and students on campus meant that the
University could continue to operate its campuses by adjusting its existing ventilation
infrastructure and encouraging behavioural modifications by those remaining on campus.
Settings were adjusted to building mechanical ventilation systems to meet best practice
advice and in order to efficiently ensure adequate ventilation. Natural ventilation was
recommended where possible. Sensors (motion and/or CO2) were bypassed to allow
fresh air intakes and air exhausts to run continuously. Fresh air intake and exhaust fans
were also run at higher operating speeds than normal and return air loops in systems
were externally vented.
Adoption of these changes resulted in a dilution of the aerosol particle build up that can
occur in poorly ventilated space via increased air changes within the room. These
changes, in conjunction with other practices such as physical distancing, encouragement
of mask wearing, and increased cleaning regimes, have been in place since 2020.
The majority of ventilation improvements in relation to COVID-19 concerns were
achieved via the operational changes outlined above, coupled with reduced occupancy
levels. These changes required no additional budget allocation.
The University did choose to close down some practice rooms in the New Zealand School
of Music where it was considered that existing ventilation infrastructure was not
sufficient to meet ongoing teaching needs until a mechanical retrofit could be completed.
The scope and cost breakdown of this project are included in the attached document.
In addition to the above actions, some individual schools, faculties, or units undertook
their own initiatives to improve ventilation in their areas (e.g. through the purchase of
portable air filters or purifiers). Information regarding these initiatives is not held
centrally and therefore cannot be made available without substantial collation and
research. Therefore, provision of this information is refused in accordance with s18(f) of
Advice and memoranda provided to the Vice-Chancellor and Council
The changes outlined above were considered by the University’s COVID-19 response team
and carried out by the University’s Property Services team. Whilst the Vice-Chancellor
and Council members were kept informed of risk mitigation strategies and initiatives
through verbal updates, no specific formal advice has been located.
Please note, increasing ventilation capabilities was only one factor in risk mitigation in
terms of the COVID-19 response. A number of operational recommendations and
measures have also been employed to mitigate the risk of transmission on campus. These
adjustment of occupation numbers for seminar/lecture theatres;
recommendations issued regarding physical distancing;
provision of COVID-19 testing facilities;
adherence to Government regulations and guidelines regarding vaccines;
requiring the use of face masks indoor settings, and encouraging use elsewhere on
introduction of dual mode delivery to provide teaching and learning in-person and
increasing working from home capabilities for staff;
enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols adopted; and
staff and students advised to remain home if they have symptoms.
We have also followed public health guidance and have implemented the public health
controls recommended by the Ministry of Health.
The full COVID-19 risk assessment document that outlines the controls and mitigations
undertaken is available at
Further information related to the University’s COVID-19 response is
available at: https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/covid-19/index.
You have the right to seek an investigation and review by the Ombudsman of the
decisions made regarding this request. Information about how to make a complaint is
available at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz o
r freephone 0800 802 602.
If you wish to discuss this decision with us, please feel free to contact me at
[VUW request email].
Ngā mihi nui
Senior Advisor, Official Information and Privacy
Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington