Gibbs College Researcher Reviews Gould Hall Air Quality to Help Prevent Spread of COVID-19

The University of Oklahoma takes student, faculty and staff health very seriously. In recent months, OU has closed campus and transitioned to online courses in order to allow those who normally work to stay home and socially distance during the pandemic. OU has also reviewed and increased cleaning measures and frequency and recently introduced a mandatory policy for all students, faculty and staff to wear masks on campus.

As an additional, necessary measure, OU also opted to review its indoor air handling systems and to determine ways they can be adapted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Associate professor of Architecture Dr. Lee Fithian was part of an initial study conducted in Gibbs College of Architectures’ Gould Hall facility to measure air quality, recirculation, air exchange rates and filtration.

Dr. Fithian is an accomplished architect who has over 17 years of commercial and governmental practice experience, including serving as former Director of Sustainable Design at the Benham Companies (now Leidos). Within the State of Oklahoma, she helped found the Oklahoma Sustainability Network and the State Chapter of the US Green Building Council. Dr. Fithian currently serves as Chair of the Committee on the Environment for the AIA Central Oklahoma Chapter.

The Gould Hall air quality study also included administration, mechanical engineers, facilities managers and members of OU Health Sciences Center hospital facilities, amongst others. The team referenced the latest American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers guidelines to direct their efforts.

The team’s tests included smoke tracing via fog machines to document the circulation and exchange rates of each room in Gould Hall. This information was analyzed along with room occupancy and the length of time the rooms might be occupied, student proximity, the capabilities of existing air delivery and exchange rates and recirculation.

These ventilation report results are helping to guide Gibbs College in making the best possible plans in assuring student, faculty and staff health. For example, Interior Design director Elizabeth Pober is referencing the results of the study to aid in planning the placement of design studio student desks.

In addition to careful space planning, OU is installing Synexis Spheres in residential halls. Synexis states that their Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHP) system continuously and consistently kills microbes throughout the facility, which reduces the baseline “bio-burden” and maintains a new, lower baseline.

OU is also spending over $1 million to upgrade filters in all building air handling units over the summer and installing additional portable air cleaners in dance studios, vocal performing areas and other studio spaces. HVAC systems are being adjusted to cycle air more frequently through their filters and increase air changes within buildings to keep possible contaminant levels lower.

To learn more about OU’s Fall 2020 plans, visit the OU Together website (