Why has so much attention been focused on schools?

There are many reasons why indoor air quality should be considered a top priority in school buildings.  Children are still developing physically and are more likely to suffer the consequences of indoor pollutants.  Allergic diseases such as nasal allergies, asthma and other allergies, account for one-third of all chronic childhood illnesses and affect 20% of all school children.  Children up to age 10 have three times as many colds as adults.  School facilities, by design, are densely populated, making the task of maintaining acceptable indoor air quality more difficult than many other types of buildings.  The sole purpose of a school facility is to foster the learning process, which is directly impacted by the quality of the indoor air.  Contaminated indoor air causes drowsiness, lack of concentration, headaches, and difficulty in retaining detailed information, reduced comprehension, and diminished motivation.Back


How did our school facilities get in such poor condition?

Managing schools involves the combined responsibility of stewardship of public funds, pursuing high educational objectives, and championing child health and safety issues.  Budgets are tight, and maintenance often receives the largest cuts during budget reductions.  A large number and wide variety of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems place added strain on the maintenance staff.  As schools expand, the new facilities usually introduce different designs, equipment, and operating challenges.  Many schools use existing rooms, portable classrooms or buildings, which were not originally designed to service the unique requirement of schools.  A typical school building has four times as many occupants as an office building with the same amount of floor space.  The human traffic into and out of school buildings every day introduces and stirs up an unusually high mix of indoor pollutants.Back


Can’t we solve the problem with better air conditioning, filtering and decontaminating equipment?

Yes and No.  To solve the problem the source of the pollutants has to be discovered and removed.  The heating, ventilating and air conditioning system is rarely the source of the problem, but it is almost always a contributor.  Better filtering and decontamination equipment will help temporarily.   Once harmful contaminants become airborne inside a building, the air conditioning systems can move them to other parts of the building.  That movement can bring the contaminants into contact with new sources of water and food and a larger number of building occupants.  Until the source of the problem is eliminated, it will always come back.Back


How can we prevent the problem from developing in the first place?

Several aspects are required in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a building to assure quality indoor air.  Design considerations include: site selection, roof design, vapour barriers, building materials, heating and air conditioning equipment, ventilation, humidity control, filtration efficiency, etc.  Construction considerations would need to assure proper workmanship, sequencing of events and preventing contamination of the building materials.  Operation of the building would need to assure proper operating schedules, proper chilled water temperatures, etc.  The building would need to be maintained with the correct materials and supplies, frequency, thoroughness and educated management.  Any event which can trigger an indoor air contamination must be handled quickly and thoroughly.  Those events might include water leaks, flooding, and warning signs such as visible growth of mould or trademark symptoms by the building occupants.Back

 

 

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