ASHRAE's Epidemic Task Force Laboratory Guidance Document

Brad Cochran, CPP Wind Engineering

In March of 2020, ASHRAE initiated an Epidemic Task Force to provide guidance to the industry on how to address the potential airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through building ventilation systems. Initially, the laboratory environment was considered low-risk for aerosol transmission, because these facilities are already designed with the safety of occupants as a key performance indicator; typically, through the use of 100 percent outside air, higher air change rates, and exhaust systems designed to minimize re-entrainment of contaminated air. However, these same systems provide unique operating conditions that require distinct mitigation strategies to minimize the risk of transmission of aerosolized particles. Several recommended mitigation strategies that may be prudent for other building types should not be employed in a lab environment because they may adversely impact the air flow patterns within the lab and/or the performance of existing containment devices.

Therefore, in June of 2020, a subcommittee was formed to assemble a guidance document for the laboratory environment. The objective of this document is to address the mitigation strategies that are unique to the laboratory environment and to define those strategies that may be applicable to non-lab environments that should not be implemented within a laboratory or to its HVAC systems. In addition to personnel from ASHRAE, members of the committee also included representatives from I2SL and SL-Can.

Learning Objectives

  • What features of the laboratory ventilation system require special consideration when re-occupying the space after an epidemic that involves an aerosolized virus;
  • What mitigation strategies are generally recommended to be taken in a non-lab environment that are not appropriate for a laboratory ventilation system;
  • When designing your next laboratory, what new systems or strategies should be employed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination of aerosolized virus within the lab; and
  • How do you go about assessing the risk of spreading an aerosolized virus within your current laboratory environment.


Brad Cochran has over 25 years of experience conducting wind-tunnel, analytical, and Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling studies of air flow in and around man-made structures. He holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and hold a PE license (CO).


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