The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that typical Americans spend about 93% of their time indoors. This number might seem shocking at first, but not after one considers how most Americans spend their days, often in vehicles, offices, air-conditioned spaces, at home, or in the classroom. Indeed, students at all levels aren’t exempt from this indoor trend, spending most of their time inside throughout the year. While spending too much time outdoors presents risks of its own (e.g., sun exposure, harmful pests, allergens, etc.), lingering indoors too long can also take a toll on the mind and body. The EPA estimates that about half of U.S. schools report poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – since so many students are breathing in this bad air regularly, those overseeing educational facilities must understand how IAQ affects these spaces and the countless people who inhabit them.
Let’s explore the many aspects directly affected by your educational institution’s indoor air quality ratings.
The air we breathe is a major determinant of our overall health. For starters, many viruses can linger in the air, including SARS-CoV-2 and its variants (the viruses responsible for COVID-19). If not properly filtered, indoor air can also carry a number of other pathogens and allergens, contributing to respiratory issues like coughing, sneezing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and more. These short-term symptoms become long-term issues for the most sensitive students, teachers, and faculty members who must inhale these invisible substances day after day. And as the nation continues to fight back against COVID-19, these IAQ-related health concerns become even more important to face head-on. Air disinfection for coronavirus via improved filtration and circulation has become a useful tool for slowing the spread in educational facilities. Likewise, updating indoor air filters and increasing ventilation helps eliminate other harmful pathogens from classrooms and other indoor educational spaces, minimizing sick days and maximizing student success.
Speaking of student success, IAQ also affects performance in major ways. Students who fall might not attend classes at all and will have a much harder time concentrating on lectures, homework, studying, and tests. Likewise, teachers might have to stay home or otherwise give a less-than-ideal performance as a result of poor IAQ, making matters more difficult for their students. Of course, the negative effects of inadequate IAQ on student performance extend beyond health concerns. Pollution aside, temperature and humidity levels also play a role in the overall quality of an educational space’s indoor environment. If a classroom, lecture hall, or library is too cold, too hot, too dry, or too humid, students will focus more on getting comfortable and less on their coursework. Some studies have found a significant decline in test performance when students were exposed to temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 75 degrees. If you want your students to learn well and achieve their goals, optimizing IAQ for improved health and comfort must be part of regular facility maintenance.
In our previous blog, “How Does Facility Quality Impact College Student Enrollment and Retention?” we discussed the various factors that can make or break students’ willingness to attend a school and stay there for the long haul. These factors included the school’s location and proximity to the student’s home, the relevance and quality of its educational programs, career preparation, and the appearance and quality of campus facilities. While every prospective student weighs these factors differently, the importance of proper facility management cannot be overstated – and IAQ is an essential component. Put simply, students won’t want to attend a university that offers stuffy, dusty, dirty, outdated facilities, and current students might think about transferring to a school that takes better care of its facilities and people. Properly maintaining and periodically renovating your school’s facilities (with a strong focus on IAQ improvement) will keep your enrollment and retention numbers high.
Your school’s reputation is wrapped up in all the aspects we’ve mentioned thus far. Poor health outcomes, shoddy student performance, and measly enrollment/retention rates all interact and reflect badly on your university’s brand. A tarnished reputation can result in less funding and community support, which in turn shrinks budgets aimed at improving campus facilities. What happens next is a negative feedback loop wherein schools can’t easily recover goodwill due to a lack of finances and increasingly deteriorating facilities. Knowing this, the sooner you make an effort to ameliorate your university’s IAQ and overall condition, the better. You can further help your reputation by investing in positive initiatives such as school recycling programs, community clean-up events, fundraising rallies, and more.
Indoor air quality can also have more direct, tangible costs on your school’s facilities. Poor filtration, ventilation, and purification will allow dust particles to more easily linger inside your school’s facilities, where they will eventually land on every surface. This dust accumulation is both an eyesore and a health hazard, so it must be promptly cleaned up. Of course, the more dust-addled your facility, the more building maintenance is required to keep it all clean – this requires more resources and therefore a bigger budget. It’s more cost-effective in the long run to invest in high-efficiency IAQ solutions. State-of-the-art air purification systems minimize the presence and buildup of dust and other pathogens within your education spaces, making them much easier and less costly to maintain. These quality air purification systems are also more energy-efficient than older, outdated models, cutting down on your school’s gas and electric bills month after month. The money saved by these endeavors can be used to further invest in student health, safety, and success.
A school’s atmosphere doesn’t just refer to its appearances and intangible qualities – it also quite literally refers to the air that fills its various facilities. The best educational atmospheres are those with minimal pollution, comfortable temperatures, and optimal humidity levels, which are all achieved with modern air purification solutions and comprehensive facility maintenance protocols. The Budd Group knows how important IAQ is in regards to student health, performance, enrollment, and retention, as well as a school’s reputation and finances, which is why we’re dedicated to improving IAQ for each and every client.
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