Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Educational Buildings
Issues related to indoor air quality (IAQ) in residential and commercial settings receive a lot of attention, but there is another important area where IAQ has a significant effect: educational buildings. In schools, colleges, universities, training facilities and other locations where individuals gather to learn, indoor air quality will influence not only health and comfort, but also how well students perform. Here are some ways that improving indoor air quality in educational buildings will make the environment better for learners and make it easier for them to absorb what they are being taught.
The Need for Good IAQ in Educational Facilities
The American educational system serves millions of students at varying levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that there are more than 53 million elementary and secondary school students attending some 119,000 public and private schools. Students will spend more than 1,300 hours in a school building each year. Many schools are older structures, with more than 75 percent of them having been built before 1970, according to the EPA. Compounding the problem of air quality is the condition of the schools that have often been neglected or given minimal attention due to limited budgets. Older schools also tend to have more environmental conditions that affect IAQ. Colleges and universities may not have IAQ issues at such a level of severity; however, even in higher educational settings, IAQ issues can affect the environment students are exposed to every day. For children in educational settings, lowered IAQ in educational buildings can lead to many types of physical conditions, such as allergic reactions, aggravation of respiratory conditions, asthma attacks, eye irritation, coughing, irritability and the inability to concentrate. They may also face increased exposure to airborne infectious diseases and harmful particulates. Teachers and administrators might encounter problems such as decreased learning effectiveness among students and loss of productivity. The school may also face potential legal liability and other legal issues.
Improving Indoor Air Quality in Educational Buildings
The following techniques can help with improving indoor air quality in educational buildings:
- Increase ventilation: Better ventilation throughout the educational building will help remove airborne contaminants and will bring a constant supply of fresh air into the building. Proper ventilation also helps control levels of carbon dioxide inside the structure. Whole-building ventilation systems are a good choice. Consult with your HVACR professional for help with effectively ventilating multi-story buildings.
- Reduce pollutants: Take steps to reduce pollutants in the air. For example, replace any high-odor cleaning supplies with low-emission products. During construction or renovation projects, make sure that particulates and other material are controlled and kept out of the air.
- Filter the air: Install air filtration and purification systems to clean the air of particulates and other contaminants. High-efficiency filters can do an outstanding job of removing dirt, dust, pollen, dander, fibers and other particulates from the air. Include germicidal UV lights or similar systems to kill biological contaminants in the air supply.
- Control and balance humidity: Maintain an acceptable level of relative humidity inside the building. High humidity will create an atmosphere in which mold, mildew, bacteria and insect pests can grow and thrive. Low humidity can lead to dry, itchy skin; eye and mucus membrane irritation; and lung irritation and coughs. Use a dehumidification system to lower humidity or a humidifier to introduce moisture into dry air. In many cases, a relative humidity around 50 percent is a good standard.
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