Getting your ducks in a row: Energy efficiency and health in green schools

Published on: 
9 Apr 2015
MIchele Curreri

According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly a third of public schools were rated to have poor or fair building systems, including HVAC systems, demonstrating a need for modern, well-maintained and sustainable indoor environments. Whether you are planning for a retrofit or LEED certification, there are significant indoor air quality (IAQ) and health considerations you will want to keep in mind and address during your project.

To help you organize and get all your ducks in a row, EPA has outlined the most common indoor air quality contaminants associated with various building upgrades and the actions you can take to protect occupant health and safety—from planning and commissioning, to moisture control and mold remediation, and effective communications and worker safety.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades (Guide) can help you navigate these retrofit or construction projects by using a holistic approach to address IAQ, energy efficiency and sustainability. The Guide, along with the accompanying Checklist Generator, can help ensure that projects progress smoothly while maintaining occupant health and safety. Energy efficiency and sustainability improvements go hand-in-hand with indoor environmental health considerations. A holistic approach is key to planning and implementing building maintenance projects that improve health and safety and maximize energy and cost savings.

The Guide outlines not only specific minimum air quality considerations based on your project, but also recommendations for expanded actions, if you choose to go beyond the minimum IAQ measures set by standards and laws. For example, during an improperly managed HVAC system retrofit project, asbestos-containing material, lead paint or mold may be disturbed, and improper drainage of condensation can lead to bacterial growth in units with cooling coils. When implemented with the Guide’s best IAQ management practices in mind, HVAC system design, retrofitting and maintenance can reveal significant energy savings opportunities while providing a safe, healthy environment for occupants.

The Guide and accompanying Checklist Generator will help you keep your IAQ ducks in a row before, during and after a project. Starting with initial planning and moving through project implementation and operations, the Guide will provide you with crucial information to keep your building safe and healthy while you are aiming for a more energy-efficient and greener building. To explore how you can apply green building principles to your school, check out the Guide, and learn about indoor environmental quality on the Energy Savings Plus Health site.