Elevating Learning Environments with Indoor Air Quality Tools
If your kids are among those lucky enough to be back in school, there are many benefits associated with onsite learning. Spending quality time with friends, enjoying a stimulating environment in which to develop their education, and new opportunities for literacy skills development are just a few examples. Children, however, are just as susceptible to negative health and wellness triggers as their parents and friends are. What if they have a hard time focusing when in class, feel irritable and uncomfortable, or are picking up flu viruses easily?
The primary culprit is the indoor air quality in schools, especially the relative humidity (RH). As explored in our Making Buildings Healthier guide, regulating it ensures a more hygienic, efficient environment. In the context of schools, this means helping kids and staff alike get the most out of the facility on a daily basis. Today, let’s explore how indoor air quality tools for schools – from humidifiers to the right materials, ventilation, and lighting – can make all the difference.
What Effect Does the Layout of a Classroom Have on Air Quality?
In addition to the number of individuals occupying a school or similar facility at any given time, the way these indoor environments are optimized and set up can aid or cause problems for your conditions. For example, if all classrooms contain carpeting, they can effectively trap dust mites, dander, and other allergens that can trigger negative health reactions in some students and staff. Then, we see the domino effect of reduced focus in class, more sick days, lower grades, and an overall worse student experience. If a teacher or staff member cannot perform their duties as well as before due to discomfort or health complications stemming from the air quality, then educational services may be less effective, and it can be difficult to fill various positions for when employees need to stay home to get better. Other elements of the layout that can cause problems include insufficient ventilation, blockages, rooms not exchanging air efficiently, and keeping far too many individuals in the same room.
Regulating Relative Humidity for Airborne Infection Control in Schools
Learning environments, regardless of whether they are a library, university or otherwise, depend on regulating indoor conditions to help keep students, staff members, and visitors safe. Airborne infection control has never been more crucial when a virus can easily spread through a poorly maintained environment, and the primary driver of aerosol-based transmission is low humidity.
This happens because, when conditions are too dry (below 40 percent relative humidity), they absorb hydration from building occupants. Therefore, individuals remaining inside the facility in question for prolonged periods of time are likely to experience irritated eyes, lips, and skin. Dust mites and allergens can become a significant nuisance in dry conditions as well, spreading further while likelier to trigger allergic reactions.
Aerosols work much the same way – they depend on the indoor air quality in schools and other learning environments to be ideal for them to travel. Air moisture content dictates how far these naturally produced, microbe-rich droplets can spread, settling more quickly in conditions when 40 to 60 percent relative humidity is always regulated. This makes it easier to combat those pesky flu outbreaks while reducing absenteeism.
Ditch Those Fluorescent Lights!
Once upon a time, we used to see fluorescent tube lighting everywhere in schools. It was more cost-effective upfront, reliable, and more than bright enough to address a lack of daylight in some spaces. However, this lighting is detrimental to improving air quality in schools as each fluorescent light acts as a humidity sponge, absorbing moisture from the immediate environment and drying out indoor conditions. LED lighting has become more cost-effective not only upfront but in the long run, acting as one of the best indoor air quality tools for schools by reducing energy bills and preserving necessary relative humidity. Combined with a humidifier capable of managing your required load capacity, it’s possible to keep conditions in the ideal range of 40 to 60 percent RH. This is a winning duo in your school’s fight against dust, other particulates, and infectious microbes to maintain a more hygienic, inviting, and comfortable facility.
Filtration, Ventilation Optimization, and Cleaning
Like with other indoor environments, we recommend using MERV or HEPA filters to block as many unwanted particles from entering the indoor airstream as possible. Combined with temperature and relative humidity regulation, it’s possible to make everyday cleaning and maintenance a breeze by making surfaces easier to sanitize. You should also check to ensure your entire building is cycling its air – replacing it with fresh outdoor air – on a daily basis, and don’t forget to update your air exchange systems to accommodate for your current and projected occupancy rate per room.
For more details on how to improve indoor air quality in schools, our team is here to help at Condair. We’re also happy to provide further details on which of our indoor air quality tools for schools – including high-efficiency humidifiers and more – are best suited to your application and needs. Contact us today!