The consequences of inadequate school ventilation and its impact on student health, the health of school professionals, and overall school health may be long lasting. The solution to creating healthy schools with healthy students is understanding the importance of ventilation and prioritizing the measurement and control of the airflow in and out of schools.
The EPA estimates that approximately 46% of U.S. public schools have environmental conditions that contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ).
There is an abundance of scientific research in America and elsewhere that has focused on the impacts of poor ventilation on student health and performance. It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of proper indoor air quality in schools.
Poor IAQ can exist in new schools, old schools, renovated schools, green schools, and even energy efficient schools. Poor school air quality may result in expensive repairs or remediation that could have been avoided by proper implementation of ventilation measurement and control. Mold in schools, school flu, and school asthma are just a few of the problems that can develop because of poor school air quality. COVID-19 is helping to place a new focus on the importance of ventilation for healthy students.
PROPER VENTILATION FOR SCHOOL HEALTH
Ventilation’s primary function is to dilute indoor generated pollutants and contaminants with “fresh air” less polluted outdoor air and to transport the “bad air” outdoors. These contaminants may be Biological (bacteria, viruses, mold, allergens); Chemical volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are generated by building materials, furniture, printers and copiers, cleaning products, human clothing, perfumes, deodorants, and occupants; or Bioeffluents (odors and gases from humans). Unhealthy levels of pollutants cannot always be detected by the nose, nor can occupants perceive if the air is really “fresh”.
POOR VENTILATION = SICK SCHOOLS
Improper school ventilation rates or improper control of airflows may result in Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) or may create conditions that lead to it. They may also lead to quick spread of school flu or other viruses or may contribute to upper respiratory infections, aggravate exiting symptoms or develop into school asthma. The CDC has recommendations for classroom ventilation requirements that many schools do not meet.
Sick Building Syndrome, mold, school flu, and school asthma can lead to higher absenteeism, developmental issues, or poor academic performance. In fact, there is significant evidence that enhanced classroom ventilation improves student performance. In short: healthy schools lead to better students.
EBTRON SOLUTIONS TO IMPROVE SCHOOL HEALTH
Implementing active airflow measurement and control of the HVAC and building automation systems (BAS) in schools is a critical foundation to creating healthy schools. Airflow sensors should be in outdoor air, supply air, return air, and exhaust systems. At a minimum, an outdoor air measurement can alarm if airflow rates cannot be obtained, and well integrated sensors will adjust to maintain ventilation rates as environmental conditions change or when HVAC systems experience normal degradation. Supply, return, and exhaust will work together to maintain proper building pressurization and, in turn, student health.
Proper indoor air quality in schools prevents conditions that can create mold growth or prevent unfiltered outdoor pollutants from entering the school. This also keeps odors from kitchens, toilets, gymnasiums, or locker rooms from transferring to other spaces in the school. Airflow sensors, proper filtration, and maintenance work in cooperation to maintain school health. There has never been a better time to focus on better ventilation for schools. Learn more about Ebtron Solutions for Schools.
Thermal comfort, including temperature and humidity control, plus adequate ventilation provide an environment that promotes learning. In addition, sufficient outdoor air is required to achieve acceptable indoor air quality (IAQ) to dilute the contaminants that can adversely affect the health and productivity of the student. Poor IAQ has been linked to an increased incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. To minimize energy costs and ensure student health and productivity, EBTRON® recommends measuring outdoor air serving the school.
Additional Resources for Healthy K-12 Schools
Environmental Protection Agency
Priority Issue 19.0 Outdoor Air Ventilation: Determine whether the school complies with the ventilation requirements of ASHRAE Standard 62.1. For mechanical ventilation applications, install permanent outdoor airflow monitoring systems.
Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Ventilation rates in classrooms often fall far short of the minimum ventilation rates specified in standards. There is compelling evidence, from both cross-sectional and intervention studies, of an association of increased student performance with increased ventilation rates.
The Ventilation Problem in Schools: Literature Review
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The scientific literature provides overwhelming evidence of the benefits of healthy school buildings.