In this blog post air filtration expert Berni Baier shares his insight on ways to attenuate the health effects caused by poor indoor air quality (IAQ) as Ontario public schools are set to reopen for in-class learning in fall 2021.
There are nearly 5000 school buildings in Ontario, Canada. The average age of these buildings is 39.4 years old, but some school buildings date back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s. According to the Ontario Government, the Facility Condition Index (FCI) for the average school rests at 28%, a high rating. This data is obtained by the Ministry of Education’s School Condition Assessment Program, where third-party facility inspectors assess the present condition of operating schools.
The repair and renewal costs for a given school are then compared to the cost of rebuilding that facility, which is calculated as a percentage. Schools tend to have higher ratings as an outcome of perpetual underinvestment in infrastructure1. As school buildings are neglected, the consequences grow more severe over time.
Benefits of Improved IAQ in Ontario Schools
Although investments in school renewal have ameliorated as of late, mechanical ventilation and HVAC systems in school buildings remain dated and do not effectively filter air pollutants. Opportunely, the Ministry of Education has made a recent announcement that $25 million will go to improving ventilation in schools with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters as part of the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 as students return to class2. With HEPA filters, virus-sized particles (generated through respiratory droplets of an infected person) and air pollutants carrying the virus are captured and may reduce exposure.
Related article: The Link Between Air Pollution and COVID-19.
There are also many other benefits to having adequate air filtration in Ontario schools. Improved air quality has been linked to:
- reduced absenteeism for both staff and students
- improved concentration levels
- better work performance
Not to mention, less building deterioration occurs and building energy costs are significantly lowered3. It is clear there are numerous advantages to installing high-efficiency air filters in terms of human health and equipment costs. As such, school officials should take a moment to learn about action steps that can be followed to manage IAQ and foster a healthy indoor school environment.
Top Tips for Ontario School Officials Seeking to Improve IAQ
Failure to manage IAQ in your school facility can lead to a plethora of issues. Not only can it lead to unfavourable publicity and damage the image of the school administration, but relationships can become strained between stakeholders, including teachers, parents, and students. To ensure that IAQ is appropriately addressed, Camfil Canada recommends that school officials:
- Have an exhaustive picture of possible effects of poor IAQ on the health of school-goers and building infrastructure.
- Work with stakeholders and the Ontario Government to coordinate the implementation of policies and programs relating to good IAQ management.
- Act as a clean air leader and inform school leadership in other districts about the importance of good IAQ.
- Consistently review IAQ guidelines and request audits of the school’s air filtration mechanisms when deemed pertinent.
- In the event where current air filtration mechanisms require updates, discuss new air filtration solutions with school boards and government officials.
What Are the Best Air Filtration Solutions for Ontario Schools?
In the case of most schools, HVAC systems cannot support new air filter installations, and particularly HEPA filter installations. A common reason for this relates to the airflow from vents; the blower motor in a commercial HVAC system is typically not engineered to work with high-efficiency secondary filters or HEPA filters.
Fortunately, there are other ways to get HEPA filters into your school.
Air filtration expert Berni Baier suggests that schools employ portable air purifiers with built-in HEPA filters in classrooms and common areas. The City M Air Purifier is a combination HEPA/gas removal filter, meaning it is able to capture both particulates (including virus particles) and gasses (a large component of air pollution). These portable filters are easy to transport and also offer odour control, which is useful for school gyms or cafeterias. Most importantly, these air purifiers are standalone units, meaning they do not interact with existing mechanical ventilation, and are therefore lower commitment in terms of cost and installation. School officials should take care to consider the City M Air Purifier when discussing air filtration needs for school facilities.
There are a variety of factors that determine which air filtration solutions will best protect your school. Be sure to contact an experienced commercial building air filtration consultant to find the air filtration solutions that are right for your building.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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