ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota legislature has approved a landmark bill that funds a pilot program for monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ) in select schools throughout the state. The program will compare building IAQ with energy consumption data collected for the Schools Air Monitoring Project for Learning & Energy Efficiency (SAMPLE2), a collaboration of Minnesota energy utilities and IAQ monitor manufacturer PureChoice, of Lakeville.

On May 22, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the Environment and Natural Resources Finance bill, which includes $300,000 for the Continuous Indoor Air Quality Monitoring in Schools project.

“This is the first time in U.S. history that public money has been spent on continuous, real-time IAQ monitoring in public schools,” said Bryan Reichel, president and CEO of PureChoice, the company that developed the monitoring technology. “The IAQ monitoring industry has just come of age.”

The project, which is slated to begin this month, will identify both IAQ and energy conservation improvements, applying the manufacturer’s PureTrac air monitoring system and a team of industry experts, including Barry Bridges of Sebesta-Blomberg and Associates, Roseville, and David Grimsrud, Ph.D., of the Minnesota Building Research Center, Minneapolis.

Jim Kennedy, PureChoice director of sales and marketing, said it wouldn’t surprise him to see a direct correlation between IAQ and energy consumption.

According to PureChoice, the system “continuously monitors indoor air quality in real time, around the clock, without interruption.” The system offers “continuous visibility of building trends. The comprehensive database created provides a solid groundwork for benchmarking, modeling, optimization of air quality controls, and effective protection against legislation.”

The ideas for SAMPLE2 were developed about a year ago, Kennedy said, when the manufacturer proposed to work with utility companies. State utilities are mandated by Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program legislation to spend 2 percent of their energy revenues annually on energy conservation programs, Kennedy explained.

The IAQ monitoring program was proposed to the Legislative Commission of Minnesota Resources, which usually deals with parks, lakes, fish, and trails, Kennedy said.

“We asked them to fund this environmental program,” at first proposing to work with 10 schools and funds of $500,000. That finally came down to $300,000 and probably six or seven schools.

What’s In It For Schools

“A number of schools are very interested” from northern and southern parts of the state, as well as in the Twin Cities area, Kennedy commented. The sponsors will consider a number of building designs, as well as various HVAC systems.

Using the monitoring system in eight or more classrooms per school, SAMPLE2 will correlate IAQ and energy consumption to identify energy conservation and IAQ improvement opportunities in K-12 schools. Each participating utility will sponsor one or more schools in its service territory, the manufacturer explained.

Schools that participate will receive:

  • PureTrac in eight or more school rooms in each school;

  • Access to view their real-time IAQ data on the Internet;

  • A final report at the end of the first 12 months;

  • Sponsoring utility follow-up on energy conservation recommendations with other energy programs; and

  • Two additional years of IAQ monitoring service beyond the initial 12-month study period, which should enable schools to enact study recommendations.

    The five parameters to be measured are temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and VOCs. Kennedy explained that the monitoring system takes readings every five to 15 seconds, which are transmitted via computer to wherever data are being collected. The real value, he said, is in examining the trends.

    Beyond This Project

    SAMPLE2 is modular and can be easily adapted to initiate similar studies in other states, the company said.

    “When parents and facility managers from schools in other states finally understand how easy it is to conserve energy and, at the same time, achieve a sustainable indoor air quality standard through the use of continuous, real-time IAQ monitoring,” said Reichel, “the state legislatures and large, progressive building control companies will be bombarded with requests for real-time, continuous monitoring.”

    The results of the project should also be of interest to the HVAC contracting and manufacturing communities, which have had the school market in their sights for at least a couple of years. “We find mechanical contractors to be a great partner for us,” said Kennedy. “We just report the data.”

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    Publication date: 06/09/2003