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Indoor Air Quality and the Schools

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a critically important aspect of creating and maintaining school facilities. IAQ Design Tools for Schools provides both detailed guidance as well as links to other information resources to help design new schools as well as repair, renovate and maintain existing facilities. Though its primary focus is on indoor air quality, it is also intended to encourage school districts to embrace the concept of designing High Performance Schools, an integrated, "whole building" approach to addressing a myriad of important – and sometimes competing – priorities, such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality, day-lighting, materials efficiency, and safety, and doing so in the context of tight budgets and limited staff.

Preliminary Design Phases

Building a school with indoor air quality that supports the school in its primary mission of educating children requires attention to indoor air quality issues from the very beginning of the process.

Controlling Pollutants and Sources

To protect indoor environmental quality, the designer must understand indoor air quality problems and seek to eliminate potential sources of contamination that originate from outdoors as well as indoors.

Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

The main purposes of an HVAC system are to maintain good indoor air quality and provide thermal comfort, two key requirements for high performance schools. HVAC systems are among the largest energy consumers in schools.

Moisture Control

Moisture can trigger the growth of mold that can not only damage the school facility, but can lead to health and performance problems for students and staff.


Poor job-site construction practices can frustrate even the best design by allowing moisture and other contaminants to become potential long term problems. Preventive job-site practices will reduce the potential for residual problems with indoor air quality in the completed building and reduce undue health risks for workers.


If building materials, equipment, and systems aren’t installed properly or aren’t operating as intended, the health, productivity, and other benefits of high performance design will not be achieved. Building commissioning is a quality assurance program that is intended to show that the building is constructed and performs as designed.

Renovation and Repair of Existing Schools

You can minimize problems during renovation and repair by making good indoor air quality one of the criteria during project planning. Contract language and negotiations with service providers (contractors) can help ensure that proper materials and procedures are used, such as performing work during unoccupied periods in the school.

Operations and Maintenance

Effective maintenance and operations procedures are fundamentally important to sustaining the performance of all building systems. Student health and productivity can suffer when building systems fail to operate as designed.

Portable (Relocatable) Classrooms

Portable -- or "relocatable" -- classrooms have been a feature of many school districts for years. In reality, portable classrooms are seldom moved and become permanent fixtures of the school. The effects of poor indoor air quality in portable classrooms are no different from those in permanent classrooms.




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