School Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Services
Indoor air quality (IAQ) and building ventilation problems can be complex, difficult to resolve and common sources of concern to public health authorities and administrators within schools. From our experience, proper maintenance is a key to prevent IAQ related complaints and perceptions including sick building syndrome, infectious disease transmission, such as SARS-CoV-2, and negative long- and short-term health effects for students, teachers and staff. RHP Risk Management’s Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH), public health scientists and certified safety professionals have extensive knowledge and expertise in assisting school building engineers and building maintenance staff in navigating straight forward or complex IAQ projects with services including assessment of school building ventilation system performance, measuring ambient temperature and relative humidity, measuring and calculating air exchange rate (air changes per hour (ACH)), monitoring for indoor air pollutants, and reviewing air filtration performance and efficiency. A well-designed and validated school indoor air quality management plan yields substantial benefits to school administration, teachers, staff, students, and parents. A case study of our process in schools can be seen in “Assessment of Existing Ventilation Conditions and Comparison to Recommendations for Reducing Risk of Virus Transmission”.
How Ventilation, Assessment, Performance and Testing Drives a Healthier School
Evaluating IAQ and assuring a school building ventilation system is working properly can help schools reduce health concerns associated with poor IAQ and increase comfort and productivity. RHP professionals follow a two-fold ventilation assessment approach of 1) testing and measuring a building ventilation system performance and clearance of particulates, pollutants, and infectious aerosols and 2) working with school administration, building engineers and facility managers towards the goal of IAQ best practice guidance from Federal, State, local, scientific, educational, and professional organizations [such as the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), AIHA (backtoworksafely.org), the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineer (ASHRAE)]. By following best-practice guidance, combined with current school and higher education specific operations, successful customized building ventilation assessments for risk reduction strategies can be implemented to protect students, teachers and staff as well as provide a safe, productive and healthy environment.
RHP professionals have worked closely with HVAC, MEP contractors, and construction contractors to assess additional building ventilation risk reduction technologies such a bipolar ionizers / bipolar ionization, and we can work with your facility to assess these technologies onsite or replicate and assess onsite conditions in our exposure science laboratory.
Analytical Methodology and Testing in your School
RHP Risk Management’s school ventilation system assessment services include:
- Review of current school ventilation system performance and maintenance which includes collaborating with building staff and facility engineers to review the configuration of the facility ventilation system, evaluate current filtration efficiency based on Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings, and supply and exhaust air system analysis.
- Tracer gas testing to measure the actual air-change rate in order to quantify the rate of fresh-air (outside air) delivery to each occupied space generally following ASTM method E741 – 11(2017) “Standard Test Method for Determining Air Change in a Single Zone by Means of a Tracer Gas Dilution”.
- Verification of engineering and HVAC controls veriDART® by SafeTraces, is the only liquid aerosol-based solution for verifying engineering controls and HVAC performance. The technology uses proprietary airborne tracers that safely mimic the chemical composition, particle size distribution, and mobility of viral emissions from coughing and sneezing. veriDART® detects how air travels within a building by proactively identifying potential infection hotspots and quantitatively assessing ventilation and filtration controls.
- Laboratory ventilation assessments including hood ventilation studies (ANSI/AIHA Z9.5) to assess effectiveness of classroom and higher education laboratory hood performance to confirm laboratory ventilation equipment is calibrated to effectively flow at regulatory, method, and contaminant specific airflow removal rates and clean room validations studies.
RHP professionals look to authoritative sources such as ANSI/ASHRAE standards and AIHA as tools and guidance on good ventilation (e.g., ASHRAE standards 62.1 and 6.2 for ventilation system design and acceptable indoor air quality). Through ASHRAE standards and controls, RHP’s partners with school building engineers to develop unique ventilation programs for your school. Building ventilation is a critical building component and should be regularly assessed to ensure optimal performance. Ventilation system assessments and engineered solutions provide valuable information and benefits to building owners and managers that include indoor air quality improvements, occupant comfort, and risk reduction.
The Benefits of RHP’s Ventilation Guidance for Schools
RHP Professionals are experienced, knowledgeable, and ready to provide ventilation guidance for schools, K-12, childcare centers, universities and higher education facilities to provide practical, effective and actionable steps towards the safe operations of schools through prevention, early detection, and control of COVID-19. It is imperative that school administration and boards consistently monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented mitigation strategies and alter their approach as needed and as regulatory guidance changes. RHP’s expertise and guidance on infectious disease mitigation strategies can provide staff, teachers, students, and parents confidence in their learning environment and safer attendance. RHP professionals work to find solutions tailored to the unique needs of each school, district, and community to promote a healthy learning environment.
- Childcare Centers: RHP collaborate with childcare centers, deemed “essential” by state and federal governments, on preparedness and planning, social distancing strategies, effective use of PPE, staff and child screenings upon arrival, cleaning and disinfecting, achievable healthy hand hygiene behaviors, and guidance to reduce risks of COVID-19 exposure to vulnerable groups.
- K-12 Schools: Similar to childcare centers, RHP partners with administrators to develop a safer environment for students, teachers, and staff in K-12 schools by providing guidance on reducing the risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID, for various age ranges. RHP experts focus on promoting effective procedures and behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19, maintaining healthy environments and healthy operations, and develop steps to follow if a positive case is found.
- Institutions for Higher Education (IHE) and Universities: using guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments, RHP works with IHE administrators to analyze, identify needs, and to update and implement emergency operation plans throughout many areas of campus life including libraries, offices, restaurants/dining halls, dorms, bookstores, sports venues, gyms, and other campus facilities. RHP work with IHEs to develop effective strategies that residents, students, teachers and staff can use to maintain healthy environments and operations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Our School Reopening Consultation Services
Challenges and New Risks for Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Schools are a vital element of our community infrastructures, providing a supportive, learning, and safe environment for students and teachers, that enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to feel at ease to continue or return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools, childcare centers, and higher education in buildings can reduce the risk of facing an outbreak. In order for schools to open and remain open, it is crucial to implement multiple actions to mitigate disease transmission as research has indicated that children and adolescents can be infected with the virus, can get sick with COVID-19, and can spread the virus to others. (Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC’s Considerations and Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation).
RHP professionals support decision makers through experience and knowledge when developing customized infectious disease plans or performing gap analysis on existing plans to validate best practice guidance regarding screening, sick staff/student procedures, cleaning and disinfecting, building ventilation, mask use, social distancing, and school staff training are current, appropriate and instituted. RHP provides a variety of school reopening consultation services including:
- Planning for school reopening which includes working with administrators, buildings and grounds and school boards to adopt and implement science-based actions and controls designed to mitigate the spread of infectious disease such as COVID-19 inside school buildings, public spaces and within the community. This enables students, families, teachers, staff, administrators and community leaders to take actions to protect themselves and others where they live, work, learn, and play.
- Educating staff, teachers, students, administrators, parents and community leaders on sick staff and student procedures and providing science-based tools for recognizing when they/their child(ren) should stay home and when they/their children can return to school. By actively encouraging staff, teachers, parents and students who are sick or who have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home, schools can mitigate the risk of an outbreak and costly shutdowns.
- Observational assessments of masking, hygiene and social distancing. RHP professionals will assess and determine any gaps in or needs for changes to personal protective equipment (PPE), personal hygiene and social distancing procedures to follow recommended and best practice guidance.
- Ventilation and engineering control guidance through evaluation of the schools building ventilation system to either identify issues or confirm successful implementation of best-practice recommendations for reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission. RHP’s two-fold approach, which includes evaluating building ventilation systems and providing best-practice guidance, can help improve school indoor air quality and ventilation and reduce risk COVID-19 transmission to provide a safe environment for occupants.
- Assessment of school cleaning procedures through observations, quantitative and qualitative evaluations and inventory of cleaning products that meet CDC/OSHA/EPA guidelines. Additionally, RHP can conduct adenosine triphosphate (ATP) surface testing to assess cleaning efficiency, microbial surface testing to assess cleaning product effectiveness, and RT-qPCR surface testing for COVID-19 to validate the efficacy of your COVID-19 cleaning process and procedures. ATP bioluminescence, an indirect measurement of the amount of organic residue on a surface (live or dead), has been commonly used to evaluate cleanliness of food preparation surfaces and research has shown it is effective in assessing cleanliness in other environments such as schools and office settings.
- School staff safety training by developing customized school safety training (in-person or virtual) for staff, teachers, administrators, school boards, students, parents, and the community to increase the likelihood safety protocols are understood, practical and effectively implemented. RHP health and safety experts can provide a variety of safety focused school staff training on COVID-19 symptom recognition, employee and student health screenings, recordkeeping, controls, and cleaning and disinfection strategies to ensure understanding and application.
- Reviewing and modifying protocols through an audit of your school’s existing infectious disease program and procedures, including a gap analysis and recommendations for effective and achievable school staff training programs, monitoring, PPE, and engineering and facility modifications, and administrative controls and provide recommended updates and modifications.
RHP’s professional experience and services will increase school administrators, maintenance teams, staff, students, and parents’ confidence, mitigate the risk of an outbreak and costly shutdowns, and provide documentation of the implementation and efficacy of best-practices. The unique and critical role that schools play make these institutions a priority for reopening and remaining open, enabling students to receive academic instruction and critical services and support. By strictly implementing mitigation strategies, schools will be able to meet the needs of their students and community, while reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Look to the Expertise and Knowledge of RHP Professionals for a Consultation of Your School’s Reopening Strategy
RHP professionals are considered trusted advisors and experts by school administrators when planning and preparing for a harmonious reopening process to achieve in-person services and provide a hazard assessment for identifying risks and addressing hazards to ease fears, answer parent/community/student fears, concerns and frustrations. Furthermore, RHP professionals partner with schools, childcare centers, daycares, and universities and institutions for higher education to analyze infectious disease plans for best practices, protocols, and guidance for reopening actions. Through engineering controls, administrative controls, masking, hygiene, and social distancing requirements, RHP works with building maintenance, engineers and administrators to assess and validate procedures which will lead to safer, trusted and practical procedures to expedite opening and in person learning. Effective solutions are not limited to a single control mechanism or practice, instead effective and sustaining solutions include the implementation of multiple control measures to add layers of protection such as social distancing, face coverings, personal hygiene, and engineering and administrative controls that work together to reduce risk.
Contact RHP for an initial phone consultation and learn more about our professional services.
Go with the Flow: Ventilation and the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
Frank Pagone, PhD
Pandemic Infectious Disease Plan: Returning to a New Normal
Jason Lang, CIH, CSP / Frank Pagone, PhD