District evaluates facilities for in-person classes

Safety for students and staff is the main goal


The Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Defense was displayed in the May 4 Zoom presentation on facilities readiness. It shows the layers in the process that help fight against the spread of viruses.

Sarina Grossi, Staff Writer

As the spring semester ends and more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the Contra Costa Community College District is preparing for the return of in-person class sessions. To ensure the campuses are safe for students to attend, the district is taking steps to see that facilities are up to date and functioning properly.

In partnership with Taylor Engineering and TRC, the district is assessing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at all campuses, including Los Medanos, and discussing possible upgrades to the buildings to address public health concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“In mid to late June, we will have completed the assessment of all buildings and will share assessment results with 4CD personnel,” said District Chancellor Bryan Reece. “The assessment will tell us the condition of each building and will provide a discussion around planned improvements.”

TRC will start with the field assessments, working with six sites, 129 buildings, 440 building systems and 1.7 million square feet of space. A team of eight engineers will collaborate with the Maintenance and Operations staff on campus to examine the current state of the systems and needed modifications. 

Colman Snaith, the assessment lead and the director of engineering for TRC, explained that the team specializes in building operations and how to make buildings more energy efficient. These qualifications make them more equipped to assess the buildings’ needs. After the assessments are complete, Taylor Engineering will offer recommendations based on the collected data and help the district create implementation plans.

“What goes into [the recommendation] is actually a tremendous amount of information that we’re gathering from drawings, from past reports, other surveys that the district has compiled and then our field assessments,” said Hwakong Cheng, the project lead for Taylor Engineering.

In this process, both firms are using what they call the “Swiss Cheese Model” to combat the transmission of COVID-19. Although singular methods to combat the virus have holes that are not foolproof, like swiss cheese, using multiple layers of protection will efficiently limit transmission. A vital layer of these protections is ventilation and air filtration, which proper HVAC systems can secure.

Steve Taylor, the founder of Taylor Engineering, said the combination of ventilation, filtration and masks indoors can help mitigate the spread of the virus when attending in-person classes.

“Ventilation and filtration basically act the same way. They both reduce the concentration of particles in the air, and that reduces the risk of transmission,” said Taylor.

Once both the assessments are completed and recommendations are issued, the district hopes to build on completed work while meeting the CDC guidelines. They also hope to keep a strong and active communication system throughout the entire process. When the needed measures are taken, college campuses will be ready for the next academic school year.