The U.S. has not faced a public health crisis like COVID-19 in over a century. Back then we did not have the mechanical systems we have today. This presented a new challenge for school building engineers. Many HVAC systems required maintenance and updating and some of the air quality measures now required were not supported by the original building designs. Fortunately, according to a survey conducted by the USGBC and ASHRAE, the majority of K-12 school respondents made changes to improve school IAQ.
Improving School IAQ
The survey, conducted by a partnership between the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), found that a majority of schools surveyed took direct action during the pandemic to protect school IAQ.
Responses came from over 4,000 schools serving 2.5 million students in nearly half of U.S. states. The report seeks to demonstrate to policymakers and nonprofits the challenges faced by schools in maintaining safe buildings and preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
According to an earlier report from June of last year conducted by the U.S. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than one-third of U.S. school districts were operating HVAC systems in need of updating or replacement just to maintain basic air quality. The new report provides insight into which schools need the most help. It also highlights which schools have taken action through a combination of measures and services such as improving ventilation and filtration. That said, many schools remain unequipped to meet these challenges.
Additional Insights from the Survey
The biggest challenge to improving school IAQ, according to the survey, is outdated building design. In short, school buildings were not built to deal with the threat of viruses on a pandemic scale. School districts that could make improvements did so with their mechanical systems by increasing air supply through systems and upgrading filters. The survey also found that 70 percent of school districts plan to continue the health measures they implemented during the height of the pandemic.
Rising to the Challenge
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. As a part of this plan, nearly $130 billion goes to K-12 education. This is an opportunity for administrators to repair and improve HVAC systems and monitor school IAQ. The USGBC/ASHRAE survey found that only two-thirds of the districts monitored air quality before the pandemic. The reasons given were lack of funding and staff for data collection. The funds available in the rescue plan provide a resource for districts to correct this lack of monitoring.
For our part, Pure Air Controls is a member of both USGBC and ASHRAE. While we did not contribute to this report we fully support it. We make recommendations based on its findings and that includes IAQ Monitoring as a part of our Building Sciences suite of services.
Building Sciences to Improve School IAQ
Pure Air Control Building Sciences includes a Building Health Check to evaluate the indoor environment based upon HVAC zones. The HVAC Hygiene Assessment is another important piece that gives building engineers the data needed to improve IAQ. These efforts are only beneficial if IAQ improves and remains consistent and that’s why monitoring is key.
Our IAQ Guard system monitors environmental conditions in school buildings. An all-in-one module placed onsite monitors environmental conditions around the clock. This includes logging real-time readings of temperature and humidity, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When these readings indicate a potential threat to IAQ, building engineers are notified of that threat as well as the recommended course of action to correct the issue.
When combined with a Building Health Check, IAQ Guard gives administrators the tools they need to improve and maintain healthy school IAQ. In addition, some schools use classroom air purifiers to improve air quality in their buildings.
Partner with IAQ Experts
Proper circulation of clean indoor air is vital for public health. Pure Air Control Services partners with K-12 schools to IAQ. This protects students and staff from virus transmission, but also chemicals found in building materials as well as allergens. Contact us today at Pure Air Control Services. Call 1-800-422-7873 or email us and find out how we can help you improve school IAQ.