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Go ahead. Try to find good news from the COVID-19 pandemic. Bad news has been widespread and well-documented, from the huge death toll and long-term health effects to the untold damage to economies around the world. Good news has been far harder to come by and far less dramatic. But amid the bad news, bright spots do exist.
One positive development is that because coronavirus is airborne, people are paying greater attention to the role of buildings — especially their indoor air quality (IAQ) — in human health.
Maintenance and engineering managers in these facilities have incorporated this heightened focus on facilities by revamping HVAC systems and practices to better protect human health. Among these changes is a staffing strategy that is paying dividends in the nation’s preK-12 schools not only for IAQ and occupant health but for overall sustainability.
A report from the Center for Green Schools highlights the benefits of adding sustainability and environmental health staff to preK-12 schools. The report provides insights on the financial costs and benefits of hiring preK-12 sustainability and environmental health staff to improve conditions in schools.
The report’s findings highlight the way a dedicated sustainability or environmental health professional is essential for school systems looking to operate more cost-effectively while improving occupant health and well-being.
The benefits include the bottom line: Hiring sustainability professionals can help districts achieve annual savings of $1 million, totaling 10 times their salaries. They also include stronger relationships within districts: While preK–12 sustainability staff most often work in facilities departments, a growing number are reaching beyond these departments to work with students and faculty.
The report provides something beleaguered managers and departments need — a win-win amid the losses.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.