K-State Olathe recently hosted Clearing the Air: The Future of Healthy Schools, an event Henderson was proud to present and sponsor. We were joined by several industry leaders, Gould Evans, BranchPattern, and P1 Group and presented on “Healthy by Design.” The following are our takeaways from the conference.
The Public Cares About Indoor Air Quality Now More Than Ever
Prior to COVID-19, the likelihood of school administration staff and the surrounding community discussing the indoor air quality (IAQ) in their classrooms was rare. This topic was simply not at the forefront of their minds. Now, more and more members of the public are aware of and care about IAQ. This is particularly true of parents as their kids started heading back to in-person classes. They wanted to know how school administrators planned to address IAQ concerns in relation to COVID-19. While COVID-19 is what spurred a lot of these conversations, reducing the risk of the virus is not the only benefit of improving IAQ. Studies have shown that kids perform better in healthy buildings and that IAQ can have long-term beneficial effects to their success. The challenge for many schools is how to address these issues, many simply don’t know where to start. It is imperative that they get in touch with knowledgeable experts who can help them come up with ways to monitor and improve their systems.
How to Improve IAQ
Now that we all agree that IAQ is important, how do we improve it? There are a variety of factors to consider and, depending on the type of HVAC system, the approach to improving IAQ may vary. In general, improving air distribution effectiveness may be as helpful as increasing ventilation air. Some good rules of thumb are to use MERV 13 or better filters, maximize outdoor air, disable demand control ventilation during periods of high transmission, and review distribution strategies. Additionally, be cautious of unproved technologies that don’t have rigorous independent research studies and always use ASHRAE as a resource.
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Additional Factors that Make a Building Healthy
While IAQ is very important, it isn’t the only thing that makes a building a healthy and comfortable place to occupy. Natural light, views to nature, places for respite, and flexible spaces were all common themes. Lighting design can have a large impact on student productivity should provide good visual balance and uniformity. It is important to be aware of illumination levels for circadian recommendations. Mitigating glare on light fixtures is also important. Reliable plumbing and quality water is a necessity. Performing a building flush out after periods of unoccupancy is critical. Schools should aim to flush their systems before fall and spring classes begin. Low touch bathroom fixtures are becoming the widespread norm for heavily trafficked spaces and are an effective way to reduce shared surfaces.
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