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In the second part of our two-part series on the industry insights on IEQ in schools, we reiterate the view that better IEQ is easier to achieve if the right HVAC systems are in place in the school complex and if the industry throws its weight behind the cause.

| | Mar 10, 2015 | 2:25 pm
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– With inputs from Nickyta Ray

Inadequate attention to HVAC systems often result from both competing fiscal interests and inadequate technical competencies,” says Brian K Kasher, in a paper on classroom ventilation1. The author highlights that school occupants are generally not trained to ascertain the effects of inadequate ventilation, and temperature “is most often a voiced concern relative to HVAC”. Arguably, therefore, the dynamics concerning Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in schools is different from those in other built-environments. In light of this, the HVAC equipment used forms the first step in ensuring acceptable IEQ levels in an academic ethos.
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BasselAnbari, PE, Managing Director at InterCool, concedes as much, when he says, “This is a very interesting subject, which resonates with the industry, but no serious action has been taken to implement required system design and construction to achieve IEQ as per international standards.” Here, he seems to be gesturing towards schools in the region.

In this context, it is pertinent to note that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in October of last year, released new guidelines to help school districts protect Indoor Air Quality while increasing energy efficiency during school renovations.2

While such guidelines have yet to emerge in the region, Anbari, speaking from his company’s perspective, informs that InterCool works with the US-based company, Global Plasma Solutions, which specialises in Bi-Polar Ionisation using needle point technology. Anbari claims that equipment from Global Plasma Solutions has been used in many schools in the UAE and in many different applications. Speaking broadly about IEQ in schools, he adds: “Proper air balancing between fresh, circulating and exhaust air to maintain required pressure in each part of the school is essential, along with a good air conditioning system that allows maintenance of temperature and humidity in the building. On the other hand, thermal comfort is vital to students’ performance in schools, as high temperatures will have a negative impact on health, resulting in poor performance of students.”

IEQ criteria of the built environment, especially in schools, are typically evaluated in various combinations using a number of environmental features and addressing different characteristics associated with user outcomes, including thermal comfort, student performance, achievement, absenteeism and health.

For Saad Ali, Group General Manager, MENA, at Ruskin Titus Gulf, ASHRAE Standards are reliable benchmarks. He elaborates, “We support ASHRAE standard 62 for minimum ventilation requirements, LEED 2009, using ASHRAE 90.1-2007 as a baseline, stipulating that new buildings and schools can attain EA credits by improving building performance anywhere from 12% to 48%.”

He claims that his company has partnered with several schools and universities to help create IEQ-efficient buildings.

Instead of such individual and sporadic efforts, Ali believes that manufacturers in the region need to work together to bring about the necessary change in IEQ levels in schools. He, however, admits that there is a long way to go to in the quest of bringing about improvement in IEQ, especially the air quality, as building designs are outdated. “High energy costs is expected to force tighter regulations, and government-monitored bodies have to whip up change to regulate schools,” is his considered opinion.

Experts agree that there is a need to raise standards of academic achievement of students through better thermal comfort. They also concede that the onus of improving learning outcomes rests on engineers, consultants and government bodies, who must spearhead the cause of good IEQ in schools to help prepare young students for a sustainable economy and create a pool of healthy workforce.

For this to happen, design and construction phases of a school building (integrated project development), proper operations and management procedures, and the balancing of IEQ concerns with energy-efficiency need to top the list of priorities. Every part and segment of the construction and facility management cycle needs to dovetail to achieve the goal.

The question emanating from this is: Are schools, on their part, earmarking operations and capital budgets to cover these prerequisites and parameters?

This takes us back to the unhealthy cohabitation of “competing fiscal interests and inadequate technical competencies” with which we began the discussion.

References

  1. “Absence Of Classroom Ventilation At A Large Pre-k To 12 School District: Classroom Measurements, Equipment Configuration, Technical Challenges”, a paper presented by Brian K Kasher at Indoor Air 2011, Austin, Texas, June 8, 2011.
    “http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?s Key=a0b42527- 956c-4e85-9bc1- b11c016fa633&c Key= 72f16cf5-0bc3-4fc4-b5d3-54d0ec74eebf&m Key=%7BF53D1928-C445-406F-A24 B-297CA9654 D92%7D
  1. www.epa.gov/schools

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