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The goal for the day: to find out what can be done to prevent poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in today's school buildings.
The open classroom was the Anaheim Convention Center. The "teachers" were representatives from manufacturers of products that have a direct impact on school buildings and their indoor environments.
In the end, the four "students" certainly learned from the hands-on discussions.
"The show was very interesting and a lot of knowledge was shared," summarized one participant, Bob Johnson, project manager for Coastland Air Conditioning, Sylmar, Calif. "I'm impressed with the emphasis that is being placed on the mold issue and the techniques that manufacturers are coming up with. And they are doing unbelievable, mind-boggling things with energy efficiency."
All involved earned an "A" in the process.
Why Do This?According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor IAQ in school buildings results in millions of dollars in medical bills and lost time in the classroom, affecting the learning process and the health of U.S. school children. (See "Finding The Answers To Poor IAQ In Schools," Feb. 9.)
As more and more school districts are beset with tighter budgets, they find themselves unable to make needed critical capital improvements. As school districts continue to utilize aging school buildings, experts believe the problems are expected to get worse before they get better.
Granted, new school buildings are being designed and constructed with state-of-the-art mechanical systems, aided by sophisticated building control systems and equipment designed to run efficiently, while providing a balanced indoor environment that combines the necessary air exchanges and filtration methods.
Although there are documented cases of mold growth in some of these new structures, the vast majority of indoor environmental problems are still found within the confines of school buildings constructed from early-to-mid 1900s.
The replacement and retrofit market for existing buildings has become a concern for HVACR manufacturers and contractors. But, it isn't enough that HVACR professionals continue to update and educate their peers on problems of poor school IAQ. Many industry insiders agree it is equally important to involve school administrators and building facility managers in the educational process, too.
Thus, The News held class. Invited to participate were:
Within a two-hour time period, the four participants talked to several exhibitors (see list in sidebar below), who talked about the impact their products have on the indoor air environment in school buildings. They also talked about the importance of "educating the educators" on the effects of poor IAQ - an important point supported by Willing.
"All manufacturers have compiled extensive data about IAQ for the design of their product," he said. "They have improved airflow, temperature, humidity, and cleanliness - all with energy efficiency in mind. The manufacturers put together a lot of data and put together extensive research - and they gave good information about things like air changes and filtration."
By offering an energy-efficient, ventilated school, administrators can provide ample ventilation while minimizing the size of conventional heating and air conditioning equipment, noted Doug Steege of RenewAire Energy Recovery Ventilators.
"Operating budgets, already stretched too thin, are benefited through reduced energy and maintenance expenditures," said Steege.
Sam Beil of Berner International Corp. stated, "We need to first address the problems. Each engineer has a twist on his or her design. Most new designs are good, but sometimes fall short or overcool the spaces. Most of the education must be done with the engineers and the owners. These are the people that deal with it on a daily basis. Engineers need to understand the need for fresh air and owners need to demand it.
"The problems have always been present. We just keep dancing around them or we pay a fortune in equipment and operating costs to achieve the same thing."
Shedding Some LightThe first topic of discussion centered on ultraviolet (UV) lights. Steril-Aire's Bob Scheir noted that his company's UVC Emitters fit across from the cooling coil, "irradiating high output UVC energy to eliminate surface contaminants and reduce airborne microbial contaminants."
He continued, "The products thus enhance school IAQ by preventing the spread of colds, flu, and other viral and bacterial infections, and by eliminating mold and associated odors. An interesting sidelight is that UVC devices also have a proven track record in helping users reduce energy consumption and operational costs. The germicidal UVC light continuously cleans coils of mold and organic buildup, bringing them back to peak efficiency."
Aaron Engel of Sanuvox also talked about the importance of stopping the transmission of germs. "Our Ultraviolet Air Purifiers and UV CoilCleaners will destroy both biological and chemical contaminants that circulate throughout schools, portable classrooms, and classes," he said. "Having many children in one place makes it easy for the spread of germs and viruses."
Gregg Burnett described the different features of Dust Free's UV lamp, emphasizing training, installation, and cost.
"Our product line utilizes a patented tilt lamp design that maximizes the UV dosage onto surface of the coil by allowing for a longer lamp to be placed diagonally across the coil," said Burnett. "This design also maximizes the amount of UV energy exposed to the condensate collected at the base of the coil. The housing is UL-listed for both water and corrosion resistance. The high output electronic ballast will automatically adjust to input voltages from 108 VAC to 277 VAC.
"These three features allow the school district to essentially consolidate their UV fixtures for â€˜probe' or â€˜insert' indoor/outdoor applications into one product. This minimizes costs associated with replacement part inventories, training for installation/maintenance, and allows for volume purchasing."
At the booth, Willing mentioned that he was a believer in UV lights. "My experience with UV lighting is that the ones we have installed have solved a lot of the problems - ridding smells which have an effect on allergies," he said. "The stuff does work."
Bob Johnson also said he had faith in UV lighting, but he wanted to see more applications.
"It is hard to get UV lights into existing buildings," he said. "The idea is great, but we need to talk about retrofit applications. It's like the paper clip invention - it's up to me to see the end result of its usefulness.
"UV lights are a good thing, but there hasn't been a flood of them on jobs. We might use UV lights in one out of 15 jobs. This might be because of a lack of knowledge. If the UV lights do what they advertise, there should be more installations. But, there is a lack of knowledge."
Making The RoundsAt the Bard Manufacturing booth, talk turned to the company's self-contained heating and air conditioning units for the classroom market.
"We have developed the product with flexibility for the customer in addressing IAQ issues," said representative Mike Lehman. "Our CS2000 is the perfect solution for the school's energy management needs. The control utilizes artificial intelligence, learned occupancy patterns, and a passive, infrared sensor, designed to reduce operating costs by minimizing energy consumption when a classroom is unoccupied. And, best of all, no manual programming is required."
Both Willing and Bob Johnson were impressed with the presentation. "Bard has improved the quality of its UV lighting. It is designed by them versus a â€˜universal type,'" said Willing, who made sure to return to the Bard booth after class.
"Bard impressed me," commented Bob Johnson. "I was extremely impressed with their new control system," referring to the room motion detectors.
While at the RenewAire booth, Steege talked about heat exchanger technology.
"Our static plate, air-to-air heat exchangers moderate the humidity level of ventilation air year-round through the passive transfer of water vapor across the plate," he said. "This technology features the high energy efficiency of rotating wheels, but with the ease of maintenance and positive airstream separation of plate exchangers.
"Our products can be used for both new construction or for retrofitting existing schools and can be used for either individual classrooms or in central air-handling systems."
The topic turned to humidity and mold control at Aprilaire's booth. "Aprilaire offers a line of UV germicidal lamps designed for packaged rooftop equipment," said spokesperson Gene Curtis. "These units are designed to be installed at the cooling coil and above the drain pan to eliminate microorganisms and biological growth on the coil and in the drain pans. These units are designed to illuminate the coil continuously, preventing any growth from starting.
"A side benefit in this application is that UV germicidal lamps can help keep coils operating at their original peak efficiency, which helps keep the school's expenses down.
"Recent medical studies have proven that UV lamps installed in office buildings can help reduce employee absenteeism. The same issue exists in schools. Student absenteeism greatly disrupts their day-to-day activities."
Open Your Books To Page ...At Lennox's booth, humidity was on the mind of John Whinery. He noted that operating at a reduced capacity [of 67 percent] allows Lennox's air conditioners and heat pumps to run for longer periods of time, "helping to increase the humidity removal capacity of the unit."
"This helps control moisture levels and improve the school's IAQ," offered Whinery. "The two-stage [Copeland] compressor also allows the unit to better control temperature fluctuations and comfort levels versus many single-stage compressor designs."
Bede Wellford of Airxchange Inc. discussed the benefits of energy recovery ventilators (ERVs).
"In addition to recovering energy from exhaust air, which lowers energy bills and reduces the size of heating and cooling units, ERV technology improves humidity control by managing the majority of the humidity or latent load of the outside air," Wellford told his four students. "This provides a more comfortable and productive indoor environment, while reducing the risk of mold growth due to uncontrolled indoor humidity.
"ERVs also provide a more healthful indoor humidity in winter, without the use of additional humidification. Our wheel is segmented and cleanable by school facilities personnel or the maintenance contractor. While wheels in schools require relatively little maintenance, this feature is significant over the installed life of the units in order to ensure that the airflow and the energy recovery and humidity benefits are sustainable."
Rey Harju of Fieldpiece highlighted some of his company's products, including the carbon dioxide accessory head.
"Carbon dioxide levels need to be kept below 1,000 ppm, otherwise people get irritable, listless, and unproductive," said Harju. "High levels of CO2 require adjusting the mix of outdoor air."
After listening intently to Harju's presentation, Willing seemed impressed.
"They've improved the sensitivity of the hand-held test equipment," said Willing. "The units we use don't have the same sensing ability. There are a lot of areas in a building that you can overlook, whereas the old equipment would not be able to pick up on that. In fact, I plan to order one of these units later in the year."
Getting The Word OutBoth Willing and Bob Johnson believed it was important for manufacturers to educate contractors, engineers, distributors, and school administrators, and maintenance staff on the importance of good school IAQ.
"Manufacturers should come out and demonstrate their products to us in the field," said Willing. "Even though we work with a lot of new equipment, there is probably something better out there, but we are just not aware of it. They can show us at our shop, our yard, or even come out to one of our jobsites."
Said Johnson, "The engineers need to be brought into the loop and be educated on these products. In my business, it is monkey see, monkey do. If it isn't on the plans, it won't be installed."
At Quietside's booth, John Miles said, "IAQ is not just related to the provision of â€˜X' cfm of outside air per student."
Mazen Awad of Heat Pipe Technology Inc. said his company is reaching out to educate everyone.
"We encourage and support all of our factory representatives' efforts to supply our products to school systems across the country, whether it is our BKP package dehumidifiers, our wraparound dehumidifier enhancement coils, or our energy recovery heat pipes," he said. "Our representative training sessions and trade show participation focus on IAQ through positive humidity control."
Tom Peoples of Environmental Technologies Inc. noted that his company has training sessions at its facility several times each year "for our sales engineers to provide application training for our products for schools, with a special emphasis on sound, IAQ, and operating costs.
"Our representatives are encouraged to train owners and engineers in the application of our products. We assist our representatives in bringing their clients to the factory to learn more about specialized equipment."
Jane Deming of Friedrich Air Conditioning Co. pulled some facts out of an American Lung Association brochure titled "Facts About Clean Indoor Air in Child Care."
"We need to utilize resources like the American Lung Association," she said. "The brochure educates readers on the importance of IAQ for children, particularly asthma sufferers; and steps that may be taken to improve conditions.
"For example, air conditioner use on warms days is specifically recommended to keep outdoor allergens out of the building, as they may trigger life-threatening asthma attacks."
Lessons LearnedDuring the day's discussions, all of the participants agreed that the problem of poor school IAQ should strike an emotional nerve.
"I believe our nation's children are one of the country's most important priorities, and the quality of the air they breathe should contribute to their overall well-being," said Dust Free's Burnett. "There is enough evidence to show that breathing air laden with assorted pollutants can negatively affect a child, so the IAQ level in schools should not be allowed to exist at a substandard state."
"It is very important that every classroom maintains an acceptable level of indoor air quality," said Bard's Lehman. "It has been proven that students perform better, have fewer sick days, and are more attentive in a well-ventilated classroom. Maintaining proper ventilation so the CO2 level re-mains below 1,000 ppm produces other challenges for our industry, but it is one we have to address."
Airxchange's Wellford stressed the importance of ventilation rates. "Maintaining the ventilation rates and the systems that provide them is key," he said. "Energy recovery can be a great help wherever the climate presents a challenge to bringing in the outside air."
Sanuvox' Engel added, "Using preventative measures, such air purification and filtration, can have a positive influence on the well-being of the occupants, absenteeism, and the facility itself."
Steril-Aire's Scheir agreed.
"The financial rationale alone should be sufficient reason for everyone to take school IAQ very seriously," he said. "But when you come right down to what really matters, good IAQ means healthier students, teachers, and administrators. And what could be more important than that?"
After the whirlwind tour, the four students reflected on the knowledge they had gained.
"We need to talk more about controlling the outside air. When no one is in the building, we can shut down everything," offered Bob Johnson. "If a system senses the CO2 levels, then the outside air is needed. Every time buildings are remodeled, the buildings are being sealed up too tightly."
He added, "The engineers need to recognize the IAQ problems and deal with them. They need to get with building owners. Schools are at the age where they need to be remodeled and these issues need to be addressed."
In Willing's estimation, the bottom line relates to equipment age.
"It takes years for things to accumulate, and then it keeps recirculating itself. In our newer building, we get almost no complaints," he said. "If I feel that new equipment would work better, I could present a suggestion to one of three people and get the ball rolling. Any one of the techs in our shop can make suggestions.
"And with proper maintenance and control, the classroom can allow for a comfortable education."
Sidebar: And The "Teachers" Were ...The News and its four "students" visited the following booths and received additional information afterward. Some of the products offered related to IAQ are listed below. The list is not all-inclusive.
Publication date: 02/16/2004