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Back-to-School Strategies: Using Indoor Air Quality to Improve Academic Performance
As colleges and universities are opening up their classrooms this month, the last thing on their minds is that the indoor air could be impacting their students’ health and performance. Yet, studies show that most schools have inadequate indoor air quality (IAQ) and that this results in increased health issues and lower student performance. Symptoms like headache, dizziness, and tiredness were found to be higher in classrooms with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, as well as increased difficulty concentrating. Other studies found students had less attention and vigilance in classrooms with low IAQ, and even more negative impact on higher-order complex tasks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically recommends that schools have a comprehensive IAQ management plan. So, how can schools ensure a healthy learning and working environment for their students, faculty and staff, without accruing incremental costs to do so?
Colleges and universities are turning to solutions like enVerid Systems, Inc.’s HVAC Load Reduction (HLR) technology, which effectively captures and removes contaminants from indoor air, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), aldehydes, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM2.5). In doing so, the HLR system ensures superior indoor air quality to help improve students’ cognitive performance, and the health and comfort of individuals on campuses. Moreover, research by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that improved indoor air quality through reduced contaminants in buildings can help boost the cognitive performance of individuals by as much as 101 percent. In addition, by cleaning and recycling indoor air, HLR technology enables universities to reduce outside air intake in their buildings, and thereby decrease the load on HVAC systems, resulting in significant energy and cost savings.
Using traditional HVAC systems, the entire volume of a school building’s inside air is replaced by outside air every one to two hours. While this helps limit concentrations of indoor contaminants, the high volume of outside air must be heated or cooled to maintain comfortable temperatures and humidity inside the building – a significant waste of energy. What’s more, outside air is often not clean air, bringing in its own harmful pollutants, especially for school buildings located near highly-trafficked roads, airports or in busy urban centers. In fact, a study by researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health indicated that people living, working or studying within 1,500 feet of a highway have a greater likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease from the pollutants caused by highways and traffic.
A university in Florida decided to proactively address these issues. Implementing enVerid’s HLR technology helped the school to not only achieve superior indoor air quality for students, faculty and staff, but also achieve a 28 percent average reduction in total HVAC energy consumption and 41 percent peak HVAC capacity reduction.
“With the winter coming, there will be a growing temptation for colleges and universities to ventilate even less to help save on their energy costs, and that’s another reason the indoor air quality problem could get worse,” says Udi Meirav, CEO at enVerid Systems, Inc. “We are pleased to provide our innovative technology to solve this problem, and support the continued health and productivity of individuals on school campuses around the world.”
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