Many K-12 school facilities need to update or replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). HVAC is integral to learning and health in schools by providing comfortable thermal conditions with ventilation and filtration for good indoor air quality (IAQ). In order to support learning, HVAC must deliver these services reliably, quietly, and be responsive to the changing conditions in classrooms and other areas of the school.
The Environmental Protection Agency published a best practices guide—developed in collaboration with DOE, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies—for improving indoor air quality and reducing the risk of spreading dangerous airborne particles through a set of clear recommendations. The “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge” is a call to action and a set of guiding principles and best practices to assist building owners and operators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors. The challenge highlights a range of recommendations and resources available for improving ventilation and indoor air quality, which can help to better protect the health of building occupants.
HVAC commissioning and retrofits, and improved ventilation, filtration and controls can contribute to reducing key risk factors for airborne disease transmission, (Li et al. 2007; Luongo et al. 2016) and allow schools to safely operate during episodic air pollution events. Improving HVAC can also have substantial benefits to comfort, productivity and learning, (Mendell and Heath, 2005; Fisk 2017; Brink et al. 2020) and doing so efficiently can provide operational energy cost savings on an ongoing basis.
These efficiency, health, and learning benefits of implementing HVAC upgrades makes HVAC a priority EEM for schools. When implemented along with other EEMS, HVAC upgrades can produce even greater energy and cost savings for schools and districts.