It has been well established for some time now that indoor-air quality (IAQ) significantly impacts the learning environment of students, their health, and their educational outcomes within schools. Students, Faculty, Designers, and many others were all reminded of this during the COVID pandemic. Maintaining enhanced indoor air quality in schools will continue to be a priority for School Districts around the country, and with good reason.
IAQ and Student Health:
Indoor air quality is a crucial aspect of student health. Poor air quality in classrooms can contribute to a range of health issues, including headaches, dizziness, and respiratory problems. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that exposure to indoor air pollutants as a result of poor ventilation and filtration is a leading cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases in children. Poor indoor air quality can therefore lead to absenteeism, resulting in missed classes and decreased academic performance.
Enhanced Ventilation & Student Performance:
Several studies have shown that enhancing ventilation in classrooms positively impacts student performance. A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that increasing ventilation rates in classrooms resulted in a 14-15% increase in test scores. The study also found that improving ventilation rates led to a 3-4% increase in attendance rates. A similar study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that students in classrooms with enhanced ventilation had significantly better cognitive performance
Improved Ventilation Systems:
To achieve enhanced ventilation in classrooms, schools must improve their ventilation systems. Schools can increase ventilation rates by increasing the amount of outdoor air entering the classroom and by improving the air filtration systems. Installing energy-efficient ventilation systems and air filters can reduce the amount and cost of energy consumed while also improving indoor air quality (and, with an additional benefit of providing unused monies for direct educational purposes).
Elara Design Philosophies that Provide Enhanced IAQ:
Historically speaking, typical Architectural and HVAC design for the K12 market was optimized around cost efficiency, not optimization of classroom or building ventilation. Vintage HVAC systems such as unit ventilators, multizone, and Variable-air-volume (VAV) systems fall short when compared to more modern approaches available to design consultants.
Elara strives to provide enhanced classroom IAQ by designing systems which supply filtered, conditioned 100% outside air from a dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) directly to each classroom space, independent from the heating and cooling systems. We have successfully paired DOAS systems with equipment designed to satisfy the heating and cooling requirements of each space such as Variable Refrigerant Flow systems, Heat Pumps and Fan Coils. Opportunities to increase ventilation rate and delivery effectiveness also exist with systems such as Chilled Beam and Induction Displacement. These approaches to design can enable precise control of ventilation rates within spaces regardless of the heating and cooling loads, resulting in superior indoor air quality throughout the building.
As with any new construction or major renovation project, there are many factors that can dictate the decision making process of the design team. We welcome the opportunity to provide more information and discuss how we can help you improve the IAQ in your facility to positively impact the performance of students and faculty. Come visit us at IASBO on May 3-5 at the Peoria Civic Center (Booth 809) or reach out to Jim Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- S. Environmental Protection Agency. Indoor Air Quality in Schools. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/iaq-schools
- Mendell, M. J., Eliseeva, E. A., Davies, M. M., Spears, M., Lobscheid, A. G., Fisk, W. J., & Apte, M. G. (2013). Association of classroom ventilation with reduced illness absence: a prospective study in California elementary schools. Indoor Air, 23(6), 515-528.
- Satish, U., Mendell, M. J., Shekhar, K., Hotchi, T., Sullivan, D., Streufert, S., Fisk, W. J. (2012). Is CO2 an Indoor Pollutant? Direct Effects of Low-to-Moderate CO2 Concentrations on Human Decision-Making Performance. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1671-1677.
- Haverinen-Shaughnessy, U., Shaughnessy, R. J., Cole, E. C., & Toyinbo, O. (2015). Impact of classroom ventilation rate on the performance of schoolwork by children. Indoor Air, 25(6), 682-694
- Allen, J. G., MacNaughton, P., Satish, U., Santanam, S., Vallarino, J., Spengler, J. D. (2016). Associations of cognitive function scores with carbon dioxide, ventilation, and volatile organic compound exposures in office workers: A controlled exposure study of green and conventional office environments. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 805-812.