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Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign Focuses On Indoor Air Quality

Improving a school’s energy performance can affect more than utility bills — it can also boost indoor air quality and learning outcomes, making the classrooms healthier for students and staff. A new campaign, Efficient and Healthy Schools, will provide practical guidance on ventilation upgrades that can increase energy efficiency, lower costs, and improve the air at K-12 schools nationwide.

The Plan to Stop Every Respiratory Virus at Once

It’s not just about COVID-19. The scientists who recognized the threat of airborne coronavirus early did so because they spent years studying evidence that—contrary to conventional wisdom—common respiratory illnesses such as the flu and colds can also spread through the air. We’ve long accepted colds and flus as inevitable facts of life, but are they? Why not redesign the airflow in our buildings to prevent them, too? What’s more, says Raymond Tellier, a microbiologist at McGill University, SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to be the last airborne pandemic.

IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) in Schools

This section provides an overview of indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools and its influence on the health, performance, and absence of occupants of schools. The review is based on papers published in peer reviewed journals. Most of the research has been performed in public schools, particularly elementary and secondary schools. The review focuses on allergens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particles, dampness and mold, and ventilation with outdoor air in schools.

The Ventilation Problem in Schools

Based on a review of literature published in refereed archival journals, ventilation rates in classrooms often fall far short of the minimum ventilation rates specified in standards. There is compelling evidence, from both cross sectional and intervention studies, of an association of increased student performance with increased ventilation rates. There is evidence that reduced respiratory health effects and reduced student absence are associated with increased ventilation rates. Increasing ventilation rates in schools imposes energy costs and can increase HVAC system capital costs. 

Attendance Focus Shows Why Good Ventilation in Schools Still Matters

While ventilation was the big topic in the pandemic to reduce infection risks, academics say that if the government want to focus on boosting attendance to further minimize disruption to education, it’s a topic that should be on the agenda again.

After three disrupted academic years, it is evident that minimizing school absences for all students is vital. In some areas, attendance remains stubbornly low and there are significant regional variations.

SAGE Specialist Urges UK-Wide Culture Change over Value of ‘Good’ Ventilation

Prof Cath Noakes backs a culture change around how ventilation systems are designed and their effectiveness is measured concerning health outcomes and environmental impacts. Efforts to ensure sufficient ventilation rates across the UK's varied building stock poses a complex challenge to address not only vital issues of occupant health and wellbeing, but also decarbonisation.

Download Fliers to Share Regarding Air Quality,
Cost Savings and Impact on Student Learning

These fliers from LifeWings make it easy to share information with colleagues and decision-makers when it comes to the benefits of clean air in schools. They explain how it improves learning, saves money and reduces absenteeism and time doing maintenance. One of the fliers explains how the team at LifeWings and its partners do their work.  

Room-Level Ventilation in Schools and Universities

Ventilation is of primary concern for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and reducing the spread of airborne infectious disease, including COVID-19. In addition to building-level guidelines, increased attention is being placed on room-level ventilation. However, for many universities and schools, ventilation data on a room-by-room basis are not available for classrooms and other key spaces. We present an overview of approaches for measuring ventilation along with their advantages and disadvantages. 

Italian study shows ventilation can cut school COVID cases by 82%

ROME, March 22 (Reuters) - An Italian study published on Tuesday suggests that efficient ventilation systems can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools by more than 80%. An experiment overseen by the Hume foundation think-tank compared coronavirus contagion in 10,441 classrooms in Italy's central Marche region. COVID infections were steeply lower in the 316 classrooms that had mechanical ventilation systems, with the reduction in cases more marked according to the strength of the systems.

The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill

Linsey Marr tiptoed to her dining room table, slipped on a headset, and fired up Zoom. On her computer screen, dozens of familiar faces began to appear. She also saw a few people she didn’t know, including Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for Covid-19, and other expert advisers to the WHO. It was just past 1 pm Geneva time on April 3, 2020, but in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Marr lives with her husband and two children, dawn was just beginning to break.

Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in Air & on Surfaces & Estimating Infection Risk in Buildings & Buses on a University Campus

The estimated probability of infection was about 1 per 100 exposures to SARS-CoV-2-laden aerosols through inhalation and as high as 1 per 100,000 exposures from contacting contaminated surfaces in simulated scenarios. The objective of this research was to collect data on SARS-CoV-2 viral load and to examine potential infection risks of people exposed to the virus in publicly accessible non-healthcare environments on a university campus.

WFI 2021 Recognition – Idea of the Year Award

This open-source design is an effective, inexpensive, safe, and easy-to-build DIY air cleaner.   The multiple filters provide for high efficiency and substantial airflow.  It was created to help clean the air during the Covid Pandemic, but it has also been used extensively to deal with wildfire smoke.   Thousands of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes have been made in the USA over the past year.  Variations of the design have been built in countries around the world.   It is an excellent example of how a simple idea using air filters can help to provide safer and cleaner indoor environments.

The Homemade Air Purifier That’s Been Saving Lives During the Covid-19 Pandemic

One afternoon, a dozen Arizona State University students gathered to spend the morning cutting cardboard, taping fans and assembling filters in an effort to build 125 portable air purifiers for local schools. That same morning, staff members at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles were setting up 20 homemade purifiers of their own, while in Brookline, Massachusetts, another DIY air purifier was whirring quietly in the back of a day care classroom as children played.

Detection and infectivity potential of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) environmental contamination in isolation units and quarantine facilities

Despite prolonged viability of SARS-CoV-2 under laboratory-controlled conditions, uncultivable viral contamination of inanimate surfaces might suggest low feasibility for indirect fomite transmission.

CO2 Sensors Help Mitigate COVID-19 Risk in Schools

CO2 Sensors provide a low cost, real time measurement of indoor air quality. They can be used to indicate potential trouble spots in classrooms as children return to school. For years, carbon dioxide sensors have been used to monitor CO2 levels in offices, schools and classrooms. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between elevated CO2 levels and poor air exchange in building air exchange systems.

CO2 Concentration Monitoring Inside Educational Buildings as a Strategic Tool to Reduce the Risk of Sars-CoV-2 Airborne Transmission

In order to avoid SARS-CoV-2 transmission inside educational buildings and promote the safe reopening of schools, the Italian Government, in line with the other European countries and in accordance with the WHO recommendations, adopted a contingency plan including actions able to guarantee adequate air ventilation in classrooms. 

What’s in the air?
Fine particulate matter is responsible for an estimated 5% of all premature deaths in Chicago. What is it and where does it come from?

One type of thing in the air is called particulate matter. Particulate matter — often abbreviated as PM — consists of very small particles suspended in the air we breathe.

These particles could be dust or smoke, tiny drops of water or even chemical compounds.

School buildings can influence student health, performance

Environmental exposures in school buildings—to mold, poorly ventilated air, uncomfortable temperatures, inadequate lighting, or noise—can negatively impact student health, thinking, and performance, according to a new report from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Healthy Buildings Program.

Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Ventilation on Intellectual Productivity

Indoor air quality (IAQ) influences the health and intellectual productivity of occupants. This paper summarizes studies investigating the relationship between intellectual productivity and IAQ with varying ventilation rates. We conducted a meta-analysis of five studies, with a total of 3679 participants, and performed subgroup analyses (arithmetic, verbal comprehension, and cognitive ability) based on the type of academic performance. 

Association between substandard classroom ventilation rates and students' academic achievement

This study focuses on the relationship between classroom ventilation rates and academic achievement. One hundred elementary schools of two school districts in the southwest United States were included in the study. Ventilation rates were estimated from fifth-grade classrooms (one per school) using CO(2) concentrations measured during occupied school days. 

The relationships between classroom air quality and children’s performance in school

The data from published studies were used to derive systematic relationships between learning outcomes and air quality in classrooms. Psychological tests measuring cognitive abilities and skills, school tasks including mathematical and language-based tasks, rating schemes, and tests used to assess progress in learning including end-of-year grades and exam scores were used to quantify learning outcomes.


Air pollution is the greatest external threat to human life expectancy on the planet.

  • The AQLI’s latest 2021 data reveals that permanently reducing global PM2.5 air pollution to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline would add 2.3 years onto average human life expectancy—or a combined 17.8 billion life years saved. 

Harm from Indoor Air Contaminants

We develop a health-centered metric, the Harm Intensity, to quantify and compare the chronic harm caused by indoor air contaminants using the Disability-Adjusted Life-Year metric. Epidemiological and toxicological evidence of population morbidity and mortality is used to determine the Harm Intensities (DALY/concentration/person/year), which link chronic harm (DALY/person/year) to contaminant concentrations people are exposed to. 

What’s in the air?

One type of thing in the air is called particulate matter.

Particulate matter — often abbreviated as PM — consists of very small particles suspended in the air we breathe. These particles could be dust or smoke, tiny drops of water or even chemical compounds.

PM is described by its size.

When these particles are very small — about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair — they’re known as PM. Individual particles may be too small to see, but when levels are high, they can make the air look thick and hazy.

Association of classroom ventilation with reduced illness absence: a prospective study in California elementary schools

Limited evidence associates inadequate classroom ventilation rates (VRs) with increased illness absence (IA). We investigated relationships between VRs and IA in California elementary schools over two school years in 162 3rd-5th-grade classrooms in 28 schools in three school districts: South Coast (SC), Bay Area (BA), and Central Valley (CV).

Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in air and on surfaces and estimating infection risk in buildings and buses on a university campus

This research was to collect data on SARS-CoV-2 viral load and to examine potential infection risks of people exposed to the virus in publicly accessible non-healthcare environments on a campus.

Evidence is needed on the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in various types of environmental samples and on the estimated transmission risks in non-healthcare settings on campus.

Ventilation in Buildings

When indoors, ventilation mitigation strategies can help reduce viral particle concentration. The lower the concentration, the less likely viral particles can be inhaled into the lungs (potentially lowering the inhaled dose); contact eyes, nose, and mouth; or fall out of the air to accumulate on surfaces.  Although it isn’t known exactly how much the concentration of viral particles in air needs to be reduced to start reducing risk of viral infection, ventilation mitigation strategies still provide a reasonable approach to reducing risk.  

ASHRAE Approves Groundbreaking Standard to Reduce the Risk of Disease Transmission in Indoor Spaces

 ASHRAE announced the approval for publication of its highly anticipated airborne infection risk mitigation standard for buildings, bringing numerous benefits to occupants and promoting healthier environments.

ASHRAE Standard 241, Control of Infectious Aerosols establishes minimum requirements to reduce the risk of disease transmission by exposure to infectious aerosols in new buildings, existing buildings, and major renovations. 

Designing infectious disease resilience into school buildings through improvements to ventilation and air cleaning

Many countries have prioritized schools in their COVID-19 pandemic recovery plans, including providing funding to support costs associated with reopening safely. These resources represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for health-based improvements to school buildings, such as improving indoor air quality (IAQ), which can reduce the risk of airborne infectious disease transmission as well as benefit health and academic performance.

More companies look to ventilation systems to control the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses

Americans are abandoning their masks. They’re done with physical distancing. And, let’s face it, some people are just never going to get vaccinated.

Yet a lot can still be done to prevent covid infections and curb the pandemic. A growing coalition of epidemiologists and aerosol scientists say that improved ventilation could be a powerful tool against the coronavirus — if businesses are willing to invest the money.

Unintended Consequences of Air Cleaning Chemistry

Amplified interest in maintaining clean indoor air associated with the airborne transmission risks of SARS-CoV-2 have led to an expansion in the market for commercially available air cleaning systems. While the optimal way to mitigate indoor air pollutants or contaminants is to control (remove) the source, air cleaners are a tool for use when absolute source control is not possible. Interventions for indoor air quality management include physical removal of pollutants through ventilation or collection on filters and sorbent materials, along with chemically reactive processes that transform pollutants or seek to deactivate biological entities.

Better ventilation can prevent COVID spread. But are companies paying attention?

Webinars & Podcasts

Why is This Happening? Exploring if we should have an Indoor Clean Air Act with Linsey Marr: podcast and transcript (Dr. Linsey Marr, Professor of Engineering, Virginia Tech)

How to Sustain Indoor Air Quality and Keep Schools Open (LifeWingsPP)

Viruses, Smoke, and Indoor Air Quality

(Richard Corsi, Dean of the UC Davis College of Engineering, and Theresa Pistochini, UC Davis Co-Director of Engineering at the Western Cooling Efficiency Center and the Energy Efficiency Institute)

Smoke and Fire Hazards for Schools and Ventilation Challenges  (California School Board Assn, LWPP and UC Davis, Dr Scott Altman and Roger Silveira)

Air Quality & Ventilation at Schools

(Santa Clara County Office of Education)

Safer Air–Defeating Invisible Enemies


Ventilation & CO2 Monitoring for Schools

(Cath Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings, University of Leeds, UK. Department for Education)

White House launches Clean Air and Buildings Challenge. See how it helps your schools...

The issue of air circulation and safety in school buildings is becoming a national priority as a means to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently, the White House announced a nationwide call-to-action to improve the air quality in classrooms across the country.  Air quality has been shown to be a factor in employee and student absenteeism, health issues, and classroom performance. 



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