Indoor air quality (IAQ) is ranked within the top 5 environmental risks to public health according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Studies show a healthy breathing environment leads to improved performance and less absenteeism for both students and teachers.
According to the MN State Health Department, "Nearly 55 million people, 20 percent of the U.S. population, spend their days inside elementary and secondary schools."
One half of our nation's 115,000 schools have problems linked to indoor air quality, according to a report by Global Green USA.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) notes, "poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and more.
Managing IAQ in schools presents unique challenges. Unlike managing other buildings, managing schools involves the responsibility for public funds and child safety issues. In addition, occupants are closer together. Most schools have approximately four times as many occupants as an office building with the same amount of floor space. Tight budgets and the large amount of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning equipment, place increased strain on school maintenance staff.
As noted by the U.S. Green Building Council, "In some studies, there have been 11% gains in productivity from improved ventilation and 23% gains in productivity from improved lighting design."
According to FE Moran, "A study showed that employees working in a healthy building saw $400-$500,000 gains in productivity annually. By regularly maintaining and cleaning ventilation ducts, providing day lighting, and having natural ventilation available, studies have shown that occupants will be more productive and have less health issues."
Here are IAQ Tools for Improving School Performance:
- Conduct a School Environmental Survey. The School Administration can improve upon energy efficiency through small and large updates. Improvements range from adding extra insulation or changing to a more efficient light bulb, to installing efficient mechanical equipment or new windows. Also, these improvements will lead to significant savings!
- Establish an IAQ Management Plan. Be sure to schedule regular maintenance such as lighting inspections and air duct cleanings.
- Monitor and Evaluate Progress. Maintain all records of maintenance. Schedule periodic cleanings, and look into updates for the facility such as retro-fitting the HVAC system, or the use of eco-friendly cleaning products!
- Inform, Involve, and Celebrate! Educate building occupants and the community on what to look for and how to help. Create a school comment box for questions, problems, and information about the facility and train custodial staff. Don't forget to track progress by reviewing the number of school nurse visits and worker's compensation requests.
The IAQ of your facility is dependent upon regular maintenance and a proactive approach to building updates and cleaning!