Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has been an increasing topic of note over the past couple of years, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we think about where we live and where we work. This is especially true in school buildings, which have been at the forefront of safety conversations as government officials attempt to navigate the evolving landscape. As the debate about what educational environments should look like moving forward, improving IAQ in school buildings is now at the forefront. Earlier this month, the Harvard School of Public Health released a report on how school buildings can maximize student performance and maintain overall safety for occupants. In their report, the team from Harvard pointed out the need for improving overall indoor air quality within school buildings, stating that common air pollutants are 2-5 times higher within a building when compared to the outdoor environment. The report's data outlined how improving school IAQ can improve students' cognitive function and positively impact overall student performance.
This data builds off of a 2020 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailing the state of school buildings in the United States. The GAO's data showed that the average age of school buildings is over four decades old. Several of these structures possess HVAC systems that do not meet current standards.
Since late 2020, the federal government has increased the amount of funds at the disposal of school districts to modernize their HVAC systems. The increasing attention on IAQ and the increasing amount of federal resources seem to be making a difference in schools prioritizing modernizing internal infrastructure. A report from the FutureEd think tank at Georgetown University shows that HVAC modernization will make up almost 9 percent of the projected use of federal funds by school districts, more than any other category.
Indoor Air Quality, especially within schools, has long been an area of focus for SMACNA and its members. As the conversation evolves around this critical topic, SMACNA will continue to inform members of developing trends and identify potential opportunities for collaboration with government partners.