Designing for Health: Improving Air Quality in Educational Environments
Places where large groups congregate lend themselves to the spreading of germs, and schools and campus buildings are no exception. Fortunately, there are design considerations that can help reduce the spreading of germs.
Quick & Simple Ways to Improve Building’s Air Quality
Maintenance: Some simple maintenance can go a long way. Regularly changing filters, wiping down the inside of air handling units, and cleaning coils are ways to improve air quality, and also can extend the useful life of your equipment.
Ventilation: Provide more outdoor air to your indoor spaces through increased outdoor air percentages. This helps “purge” the rooms through ventilation. This does have an impact on energy consumption, so it is important to reevaluate these levels regularly to control costs. Current equipment capacity in your buildings may also limit the amount of outdoor air you can circulate.
Filtration: Take time to review with your filter supplier and equipment manufacturer or an HVAC engineer to determine if your air handling equipment can handle improved filtration. Minimum filter reporting values (MERV) of 13 or greater are recommended for helping capture airborne viruses. Design features such as including additional space for filters have very little cost impacts on the construction side of things, but may result in a more rigorous maintenance program.
Additional & More Involved Steps
Purification: Consider adding air purification systems to your air handling equipment such as Bipolar Ionization or Ultraviolet Energy (UV) systems. These systems can be effective at reducing viruses in the airstream but can come at a higher cost. This is a great thing to consider during an upgrade of air handling units, as purification equipment can also be installed right inside the air handling units that are being replaced.
Humidification: It has been long proven that maintaining an indoor humidity level between 40-60% reduces the time some airborne illness remain infectious. We mention this with caution, however, because, if applied incorrectly to a building with a poor / aged envelope, you may do more harm than good by causing moisture damage and increasing mold growth.
Want to learn more?Reach out to one of our design professionals
Trent is a mechanical designer and Certified Geo-Exchange Designer. He loves helping clients run their buildings efficiently, and working with them to select systems that are going to work best for their institutions over the long haul.
Ron is a mechanical engineer and Certified GeoExchange Designer. Ron's passion lies in collaborating with owners and facility managers on design as well as the day-to-day operations of their buildings to ensure optmium efficiency.
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