Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Force Behind Your School’s Success Part 2

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has a significant impact on the health of your school’s students and staff, as well as their productivity and performance. Protecting your school’s IAQ should be a top priority not only for your physical and plant maintenance staff, but also for your administration and all of the stakeholders in your community. In this article, we will take a closer look at the seven technical solutions to indoor air quality so that you can develop a comprehensive plan toward success and health through proper IAQ management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists seven technical solutions to indoor air quality, including:
  • HVAC

  • Moisture/Mold

  • Integrated Pest Management

  • Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Materials Selection

  • Source Control

  • Energy Efficiency

Each of these seven categories can and should be considered as you improve your building’s indoor air quality. In this article, we will take a closer look at the steps we take regarding each of these solutions, and how your school can take proactive steps toward improved air quality, one solution at a time.

HVAC

Most people think of their HVAC systems when they think about IAQ, and for good reason. In fact, your school’s HVAC system can degrade the IAQ throughout your school by spreading any number of pollutants, including dust, bacteria and allergens. The good news? You can ensure your HVAC system is helping IAQ rather than hurting it with regular maintenance. First, make sure you have HEPA filters in your HVAC system. These are a specific type of filter that have been third-party tested to ensure that they do more to improve IAQ. A regular maintenance regimen will ensure that your HVAC system’s filters are grabbing those pollutants and preventing them from being circulated throughout your school building. You will need to replace filters according to the system’s specifications and regularly. If not, they will become clogged up with dirt and grime, which will slowly make its way into your HVAC system. Not only will your filters be unable to do their job, removing new pollutants from the air, but they will also produce and circulate new pollutants into the air. If you have an HVAC system with severely clogged filters that have not been changed regularly in the past, you may need to have your ducts cleaned. If you want to go beyond investing in better filters and ensuring regular maintenance, consider some of the new technology that is being developed to help clean HVAC systems even deeper. This includes a lot of UV technology, which uses ultraviolet energy to remove microbial particles from the air.

Moisture and Mold

Moisture can pose a significant IAQ problem in any school building, no matter when it was built or what the weather is. We all know that when it isn’t treated right away, moisture leads to mold. Moisture problems in schools can be caused by leaks in roofing and plumbing, excess humidity, and issues associated with older buildings or delayed maintenance. Delaying maintenance on your HVAC system can cause moisture to become trapped inside your filters and ductwork, which leads to mildew and mold being recirculated throughout the air in your buildings. Clearly, you want to avoid that. Your school should have a moisture-reduction plan in place to curb moisture before it even enters the building, including adequate ventilation, exhaust fans, a regular inspection schedule, a carpet care plan and a lot of humidity controls.

If mold is detected inside a building, there are options, including UV technology and certain disinfectants, that can kill the mold. Be careful when selecting disinfectants to use in your schools. Disinfectants can be very potent, and some chemicals that they use to kill mold and mildew will have a negative impact on IAQ. Look for hydrogen-peroxide based disinfectants like the Diversey product Oxivir. Hydrogen peroxide has a lower toxicity profile with proven efficacy as a disinfectant, making it an ideal active ingredient for disinfectants in the school setting.

Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning your schools and indoor air quality, your No. 1 priority should be finding products that have low to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are effective in removing or killing germs. According to the U.S. EPA, the typical classroom has about 50 to 300 VOCs present in the air. These VOCs have a negative impact on indoor air quality and are often byproducts from cleaning supplies, building materials and furniture.

When selecting your cleaning products, always look for a third-party certification like Greenguard, which identifies products (and even building materials and furniture) verified to meet strict emission levels of pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and phthalates.

Using microfiber cloths to trap dust and allergens, along with HEPA-certified vacuums and regular carpet care, will remove allergens and particles in the air that negatively impact your IAQ. UV technology can also be used to clean the air. New products, like Pureti, have been developed to actually break down VOCs and dust to improve IAQ and respiratory health.

Materials Selection

Materials selection can be a cumbersome operation, especially at a school, where such a wide variety of materials are needed. Your school needs to order everything from office supplies and food service items to light bulbs and HVAC replacement parts, sometimes at a moment’s notice, and sometimes on a regular maintenance schedule. Plus, you want to make sure you are choosing products that have minimal toxic off-gases and replace parts frequently to ensure your building’s IAQ is protected. Even with a strong commitment to IAQ and the best intentions, there are many opportunities to make a mistake throughout the materials selection process. You are working with multiple vendors, systems and a vast marketplace flooded with materials to choose from, after all.

In order to organize your materials selection process around a shared dedication to choosing materials in every facet of your facility that promote healthy indoor air quality, you’ll need to improve communication, increase engagement and simplify the process. We have focused on developing a Budd MRO supply ordering system that streamlines the entire selection process, reducing the number of vendors you need to work with so that you can ensure indoor air quality is a top priority for every material you select.

At The Budd Group, these seven categories align with our core competencies and areas of expertise.  To learn more about how we can take a closer look at these seven categories to provide you with the technical solutions you need to eliminate toxins and improve your building’s indoor air quality.
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