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Mitigating Poor Air Quality in Schools Now Can Prevent a Shutdown Later

Sep 8, 2023 | Public | 0 comments


As students return to school from a record-breaking hot summer, many are entering facilities with poor indoor air quality (IAQ), the effects of which can be dangerous. Though temperatures are beginning to cool in some areas, the coming months bring with them viruses like the flu and the common cold—along with a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases caused by new and emerging variants.

The combination of environmental and seasonal air quality factors means that for faculty and students, failing to maintain quality ventilation systems presents a year-round risk. Until school systems address the air quality threat and implement preventative solutions, the threat of another pandemic-era shutdown will loom large.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, students and educators returned to the classroom with a renewed sense of the importance of best practices around health, safety, cleanliness, and social distancing—yet in too many cases, the underlying issues that put them in danger, such as poor ventilation and filtration systems, remained. School systems need to address poor IAQ at the source to keep their facilities safe from airborne illnesses, outside air pollutants, and all the harmful particulate matter that leads to serious health concerns if left to circulate.

School systems get much-deserved funding to improve their facilities, learning materials, hiring and training initiatives, as well as the myriad other things necessary to ensure students are getting the best education possible. As part of this pursuit, administrators must apply funding toward creating a healthier school environment to improve conditions and minimize closures. Incorporating real-time monitoring systems into the classroom is a necessary part of this initiative.

On average, students and staff spend seven hours a day inside their school facility for the 180 days of the school year. For teachers who work long hours and teach summer classes, as well as for the students attending them, this number is even higher. When indoor air is not filtered and purified, the complex mixture of gasses and fine particles (PM2.5) like ammonia (NH3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) can cause breathing issues from coughing to pulmonary inflammation.

Additionally, extreme weather conditions like wildfires and heat waves only intensify poor air quality conditions by increasing the amount of PM2.5 in the air. Technology such as real-time monitoring devices that help assess ventilation performance are essential to combat the complexities of PM2.5 and other airborne pollutants in the air quality of most buildings.

A certifiably healthy facility relies on several components working in tandem, including effective ventilation and recycled air filtration. To guarantee this coordination within a system, it’s vital to access real-time air quality data. By advancing the Internet of Things (IoT) technology with a digitized and real-time monitoring apparatus, schools and businesses can promote a universally healthy building and enhance building upkeep.

Think of these tools like Fitbits for buildings: Real-time IAQ monitors help underperforming facilities diagnose the issues and identify ways to improve their air and meet—or even exceed—performance standards. The faster building owners and schools recognize how necessary these technologies are, the healthier their education facilities will be.

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic-induced school closures of the last few years, it is that monitoring IAQ in shared public spaces, such as schools, offices, and other commercial buildings, is increasingly important. For example, many industry leaders have installed IAQ monitoring device systems including Atlanta Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and Washington D.C. Public Schools. However, it would be a disservice to our communities to let this emphasis on respiratory health fade as the global health crisis subsides and repeat the difficult past few years.

Students, parents, faculty, and small businesses cannot risk another shutdown. As more cases of COVID-19 and other flu-related issues arise across the country, school systems must invest in tools to improve IAQ.

It’s our responsibility to create a higher standard of breathing conditions for all people, but for our budding next generation especially. That begins with assessing the functionality of building parameters and creating a particle landscape of its dangers. Armed with information, we can revolutionize the future of respiratory health.

Dr. Serene Almomen is the co-founder and CEO of smart building technology company Attune.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in op-eds are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of Facilities Management Advisor.

ALSO READ: 5 Back-to-School Cleaning Tips for Healthy Buildings

The post Mitigating Poor Air Quality in Schools Now Can Prevent a Shutdown Later appeared first on Facilities Management Advisor.


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