Chris Marasco, product manager at US-based Modine Manufacturing Company, tackles the topic of improving indoor air quality in schools.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools?
Where are we now?
With children returning to in-person learning this year, one of the biggest concerns in the industry is IAQ and how it is being affected by Covid cases pertaining to the Delta variant. Crowded spaces such as schools and other commercial buildings require proper ventilation and filtration to reduce the number of harmful particles that enter a particular space. That’s one of the major challenges our industry and school districts face today.
Where do we go next?
The manufacturing industry and school districts need to focus on improving IAQ within operating spaces. At Modine, we emphasise three areas: controlled ventilation, dehumidification and filtration.
For controlled ventilation, the focus is delivering adequate ventilation to occupied spaces. Mechanical HVAC units allow school leaders to control ventilation and increase those ventilation rates. Higher ventilation rates mean more of the outside air is making its way inside the building, making it easier for students, teachers and administrators to breathe.
HVAC units are heavily used for dehumidification purposes as well. Most HVAC units are equipped to handle higher latent loads associated with outside air. It is important to maintain a relative humidity level of 40-60 per cent to prevent the air from being too dry or sticky. This also reduces the amount of mildew, mould or organic growth, which could create respiratory issues.
As far as filtration, ASHRAE is recommending MERV 13 filtration for most applications because it eliminates more particles in the air. Any improvements to filtration a school can make will inherently have benefits to the IAQ.
How do we get there?
Funding is required so schools can improve ventilation systems. With a focus on controlled ventilation, dehumidification and filtration, IAQ can be improved and schools can provide an atmosphere that is safer and more comfortable for students.