Indoor Air Quality in Schools

With buildings becoming increasingly air-sealed to improve energy efficiency, a consequence is a rise in deficient indoor air quality (IAQ). This is a serious—yet often unnoticed—threat to occupant health, cognitive function, productivity and general wellbeing. Deficient IAQ is especially concerning because people are indoors about 90% of the time. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that indoor air may be two to five times, and occasionally greater than 100 times, more polluted than outdoor air.

Schools suffer considerably from deficient IAQ. The EPA determined that the typical school has approximately four times as many occupants as office buildings for the same amount of floor space. This means that more carbon dioxide (CO2 )—which is considered an indoor air contaminant—is exhaled into the air. What’s more, the EPA found that about 50% of school buildings have problems linked to poor IAQ.

Further, experts agree that the primary transmission route of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is through the air. Thus, due to their high-occupant densities, schools are quite vulnerable to the spread of airborne viruses that can lead to deadly diseases. This is especially true in school transient areas where occupant density is at its peak.

Healthier Classrooms.

What’s the best way to provide cleaner and healthier air inside school buildings? The answer is increased and balanced ventilation. As long as enough controlled and filtered fresh outdoor air is coming in and stale indoor air is exhausted out, interior spaces will enjoy high-quality air. In fact, the American Lung Association states that proper ventilation is essential for keeping the air fresh and healthy indoors.

Further, to stop the spread of airborne viruses, cognizant authorities recommend a layered approach with increased ventilation at its core. For example:

  • Regarding schools, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states: “Ventilation is one component of maintaining healthy environments and is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy for schools and childcare programs.” Additionally, the CDC found that the incidence of COVID-19 was shown to be 39% lower in schools that improved ventilation.
  • Likewise the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) contended that: “The underlying effort of the designer [when designing for schools] should be to mitigate risk of airborne pathogen transmission through a combination of strategies, including increased ventilation, better filtration, improved air distribution or use of other air cleaning or treatment technologies.”

In short, by breathing cleaner and healthier indoor air all day long at school, students, teachers and staff will experience fewer short and long-term health problems.

Healthier Minds.

Enhancing IAQ energy-efficiently, cost-effectively and sustainably through energy recovery ventilation results in numerous benefits for school occupants. These include:

  • Strengthened cognitive function: By removing contaminants from the indoor air, school occupants can improve their overall cognitive function. A Harvard study found that, on average, when compared to an indoor environment with deficient IAQ, cognitive scores were 61% higher in a simulated green-building environment and 101% higher in a simulated green-building environment coupled with doubling the outdoor-air ventilation rate from 20 CFM per person to 40 CFM per person.
  • Improved test scores: The EPA found that children in classrooms with higher outdoor-air ventilation rates scored 14-15% better on standardized tests than children in classrooms with lower outdoor-air ventilation rates.
  • Reduced absenteeism: The EPA found that raising classroom outdoor-air ventilation rates can reduce absenteeism by approximately five to 10 absences per 1,000 students for a 1,000 ppm decrease in the difference between indoor and outdoor CO2 levels.

Healthier Planet.

Increased and balanced ventilation is the best way to enhance indoor air quality in any building. With enough outdoor air coming in to replace the stale indoor air via balanced ventilation, IAQ is enhanced. The only downside is that it can increase energy use and costs.

However, this not the case with energy recovery ventilation. RenewAire’s energy recovery technology reuses otherwise-wasted energy, which enables users to lower energy use, decrease HVAC equipment, and see a drop in their overall energy costs up to 65%. Plus, this energy reduction is better for the planet, as the EPA notes, “ERVs provide excellent opportunities for saving energy, controlling humidity and providing sufficient outside air to promote IAQ.”

RenewAire Everywhere and Anywhere: Ventilation Case Studies at Schools, Colleges, Learning Centers and Laboratories

Increased Ventilation Benefits



Viral Spread

Reduced<br>Viral Spread

Cognitive Function

Improved<br>Cognitive Function