Visit the University website for more news, announcements, and resources related to the Penn campus response to COVID-19.


Please visit School and Center sites for specific building and re-occupancy guidance.


Facilities Resumption FAQ's

Below are answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Facilities resumption on the Penn campus in response to COVID-19.  Answers will be updated to reflect new guidance from the CDC, the State of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia and the University.


      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Disinfectant Procurement Guidelines

      Mechanical/Electronic/Plumbing/HVAC Systems

      Occupancy Guidelines for Commercial Office Buildings


      Health and Wellness

      Campus Life

      Shop Penn Retail District




1.  What processes do you have in place to ensure clean buildings and surfaces?

In addition to our Standard Operating Procedure, we maintain, clean, and disinfect in accordance with CDC guidelines.  We use a Hospital Grade Disinfectant when disinfecting buildings daily and have implemented a florescent marking system that allows us to verify cleaning techniques.  We are also using electrostatic sprayers in some areas.

Our staff are fully compliant with PPE at all times.

2.  What are you doing to help keep individuals safe once they enter the building?

We have installed hand sanitizer at entry points and elevators on ground floors and integrated touchless dispensers.

3.  What special considerations are you implementing for Laboratories and Research Clinics?

Individual organizations can purchase PPE & supplies through the Penn Marketplace using the guidance provided by EHRS and Purchasing Services. Housekeeping focuses on high touch points, sinks, trash, and floors.  Lab staff should support by providing wipes for individuals to wipe their desk/workspace. 

4.  What special considerations are given for Residential Buildings?

High touch points are cleaned daily.  Students should wear flip flops in the shower and not share soap, shampoo, or other products.  The schedule for disinfecting is once per day.

5.  What special considerations are given for cleaning classrooms and central pool classrooms?

With limited time between classes, disinfecting after each class will be a shared responsibility.  Wipes will be provided for students to grab on the way into the classroom to wipe their own desk/workspace.

6.  How can I help support the cleaning efforts in our office?

For both faculty and staff offices/workspace, housekeeping will provide full cleaning and disinfecting weekly.  Individuals are asked to wipe their personal desk and workspace.





Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Cleaning/Disinfectant Supplies Procurement Guidelines


1.  What guidelines are used in choosing the right cleaning/disinfectant supplies or PPE to purchase?

Consistency of the products used are based on specifications set forth by Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (EHRS), Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) and Student Health Services (SHS). 

2.  How do I request or obtain PPE?

  • Individual Schools, Centers, departments and divisions should purchase PPE and cleaning supplies directly for their organizations through the identified preferred suppliers in the Penn Marketplace, using the standards developed by EHRS and Procurement Services.
  • Special Spot-Sourcing and Central Sourcing Support available through strategic sourcing team,
  • A central emergency inventory will be maintained by EHRS to support University operations when needed.






Mechanical/Electronic/Plumbing/HVAC Systems

1.  What are the recommendations for how to reoccupy a building?  What measures are being taken with HVAC systems to return them to normal operations?

FRES has consulted with ASHRAE and reviewed other relevant recommendations. Based on these inputs, we have performed the following:

  • Removed all setbacks modes and returned equipment to occupied mode.
  • Opened outside air intake dampers to maximum position for a minimum of four hours before occupation. While performing this “flush out” mode, monitored the systems to ensure space temperature and humidity are being maintained.

2.  What is the MERV filter standard on campus and what is the scientific data on those ratings?

Central Ventilation Systems:  ASHRAE Standard 52.2 establishes application guidelines for MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filters.  ASHRAE states that filters that are MERV 13 and above are efficient at capturing airborne viruses.  The Penn standard for filters stipulates a MERV 8 pre filter and a MERV 14 final filter.  However, Penn has recently upgraded systems to MERV 15 filters which is two levels above the ASHRAE recommendation.  These filters remove at least 95% of the virus particles transmitted by people.  

Fan Coil Units:  The units are not the primary source of ventilation for a space and mostly provide additional heating and cooling to the space and cannot utilize air filters higher than MERV 8 mesh.

3.  Should filters be changed more frequently?  How often is Penn changing filters?  What are the recommended methods of replacement and disposal?

ASHRAE does not recommend filters be changed more frequently.  They recommend owners to consider letting the filter load up further than usual to make them more restrictive to air flow for better filtration.  Penn's current schedule for filter changes is 3-4 months for MERV 8 filters and 12-18 months for MERV 15 filters.  THE MERV 15 filters are rated to last 24 months.  Workers performing filter changes follow EHRS recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment.  Filters are sealed in boxes or bags and disposed of in regular trash outside of buildings.        

4.  Do ventilation rates at the buildings need to be increased?  What are Penn's air exchange rates for labs, offices, and restrooms?

ASHRAE recommends following the current ASHRAE 62 Standard - Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.  Penn follows these standards for offices, classrooms, and restrooms.  For these types of spaces, the ventilation rates are based on the number or occupants and the square footage of the space.  For general lab spaces, the air change rate is set by whichever is the highest for the space: makeup air for fume hoods, 6 air changes per hour rate, or space cooling load; unless prescribed otherwise by EHRS. 

5.  What humidity levels does Penn maintain and what is being recommended for fighting COVID-19?

Penn standards call for the buildings to maintain a max Relative Humidity (RH) of 50% in the summertime. There is no standard from ASHRAE for a minimum RH requirement for winter.

6.  Which air handlers are 100% outside air (OA) and which ones have recirculation or return air? 

Penn standards require lab air handlers to be 100% OA.  All other air handlers serving classrooms, offices, and all other areas have a certain amount of recirculated air per ASHRAE standards.

7.  Does Penn have UVGI lamps installed in the HVAC equipment?

Penn does not have UVGI lamps installed in HVAC systems, and they are not recommended by EHRS.

8.  What if I am still uncertain if my space meets the proper requirements for occupancy?

Talk with you Building Administrator and/or Area Manager to express your specific concerns.  FRES will evaluate the situation and consult with EHRS as needed.  

9.  What are you doing to flush out domestic water systems prior to building reopening?

Per ASHRAE recommends that domestic water systems be flushed to remove potential contaminants from stagnant water in equipment, piping, and fixtures. This goal is being achieved by flushing out all domestic hot- and cold-water systems, including all fixtures, piping mains and branch lines.





Occupancy Guidelines for Commercial Office Buildings

1.  What provisions are made for housekeeping, air, and water systems to prep and maintain the space if my office is in a leased building?

Additional provisions have been made in our commercial office space at Penn and in leased buildings, as monitored by the FRES Real Estate office. Housekeeping is following CDC guidelines, including high touch surfaces and common areas.  Signage similar to what is installed on-campus has been installed in these spaces.  For HVAC systems, enhanced filtration and outside air to maximize air changes have been implemented, per CDC recommendations.






1.  Are there existing guidelines for design, production, and posting of new signage to go in our campus buildings, or does signage get produced in-house by a School or Center?

The Office of the University Architect has created a Penn signage catalog with approved standardized signage from a preferred supplier, to provide uniform messaging across the University.  Signage can be customizable by Schools and Centers to address specific areas or functions.    




Health and Wellness

1.  Do I need to wear a mask outdoors and indoors when I am on campus?

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health updated its guidance on masking in August 2021.  In light of this information, everyone is now required to wear a mask indoors on the University campus.  However, we must continue to be vigilant for the members of our community who are unvaccinated and are at risk.  Read more here on public health guidelines on campus.  Please follow School/Center guidelines and building signage regarding mask wearing. 

2.  Is the COVID-19 vaccine required for staff, faculty and students on campus?

All current faculty and staff are reuired to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by August 1, 2021.  Students will be required to get vaccinated for the Fall semester.  For more on the requirements related to COVID-19 vaccines and testing, visit the Penn Cares program FAQs.  




Campus Life

1.  Are the college houses and dining halls open for students?

For the most up-to-date information about on-campus housing and dining options, visit the Residential Services website.

2.  Are Penn Libraries services and study spaces available for use?

The Libraries staff are working hard to sustain access for Penn faculty, students, and staff, including both virtual support and in-person study space. Please see the Libraries’ detailed FAQ for more information.

3.  Are Campus Recreation facilities and programs available?

Some recreation facilities are available for limited use.  A range of in-person outdoor and virtual group exercise classes are also being offered.  To see more on the required membership or reservation processes, and facility policies and procedures, go to Penn Campus Recreation.

4.  Are the arts and culture institutions on campus open to the Penn community and visitors?

Several of the arts organizations are open to visitors as well as offering virtual programming.   You are encouraged to check the websites of the individual galleries and centers for more specific and updated information.




Shop Penn Retail District

1.  Are the shops and restaurants around Penn's campus open for business?

The health and wellness of our retail guests, employees, and community are the highest priority.  You can continue to support and enjoy your favorite local businesses by visiting stores and restaurants in the district, ordering takeout, making online purchases, or buying gift cards

See the latest openings and offerings here


Last Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2021