Indoor Air Quality Assessments
Maximizing ESSER Funds to Create Safe School Environments
Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) has been a key factor in HVAC design for many years. Studies have shown that IAQ is directly related to occupant health, comfort, and productivity. In the school environment, increased IAQ along with effective air distribution can not only reduce the spread of infectious diseases but can lead to increased student performance and lower absentee rates. As the oldest Architectural Engineering firm in Arkansas, we have a long history of design in K-12 schools.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, our design professionals are using their medical facility design experience to help schools overcome challenges associated with long range virus transmission. Our Indoor Air Quality and HVAC Systems Evaluation will focus on the highest priorities outlined by the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation (DPSAFT) with recommendations that align with ESSER Funding Codes 196 (Facility Repairs and Improvements) and 197 (Improve Air Quality).
First Steps to Improved IAQ
HVAC Systems and Equipment
The condition and capacity of a school’s existing HVAC systems must be thoroughly evaluated to provide the best and most cost-effective solutions for the facility. The purpose of this evaluation is to assess equipment condition and review system capabilities regarding the delivery of recommended ventilation rates to the classrooms. Our team will also evaluate the outdoor airflow intakes and exhaust discharge locations for potential contaminant re-entrainment.
Most health and HVAC industry organizations agree that providing higher efficiency filters (MERV 13) will lead to better indoor air quality. Unfortunately, many existing HVAC systems may not have the available fan power to overcome the pressure requirements of higher efficiency filters. In many cases, lower efficiency filter effectiveness can be significantly improved by eliminating leaks surrounding the existing filter rack. For each system, the filtration type, efficiency, and effectiveness will be reviewed as well as the system’s capacity for filter efficiency upgrades.
System Operation and Control
HVAC equipment control sequences can have a significant impact on system performance. Our team will evaluate system start and stop times, cooling, heating, and ventilation control strategies for opportunities to improve system performance and dilute virus concentration in re-circulated air.
Indoor Air Distribution
Airflow distribution can play a significant role in reducing occupant’s exposure to contaminants. Classrooms will be evaluated for horizontal airflow patterns in the occupant breathing zone that could potentially lead to increased virus spread. In some cases, testing may be necessary to determine airflow patterns.
Results and Follow-Up
The final deliverable is a comprehensive report of prioritized recommendations and mitigation strategies based on DPSAFT priorities, industry standards, and ESSER Funding Guidance. Recommendations will be coordinated with Master Plans, maintenance capabilities, and operational budgets to provide holistic solutions with long-term facility goals in mind.