Characteristics of Schools That Can Affect Indoor Environment Quality

Characteristics of Schools That Can Affect Indoor Environment Quality


For existing schools: We can better understand the causes of school indoor environment problems and also better understand some of the barriers to getting things fixed or changed if we understand the factors that make schools unique.

For new schools: Prevention means Anticipating Problems and Planning for the Future. Many future Indoor Air Quality (IAQ or IEQ) problems can be avoided at the design and construction stage if we understand well the use of the building, the small-p political factors surrounding operation of schools, and other factors listed below.

The Cutter Corporation’s book Indoor Air Quality in Schools outlines characteristics unique to schools:

(1) Cheap Construction: We are learning from the schools built in the 50s and 60s that cheap construction is actually expensive in the long run.

(2) Additional Space: Making additions and changing room lay-out often work against the original building design and disrupt building function.

(3) Energy Conservation Measures: Quick fixes tried in the past to conserve energy have caused such things as reduced ventilation and increased indoor pollution.

(4) Occupant Density: Schools house approximately four times as many occupants per square foot as do office buildings – and please keep in mind children’s vulnerable bodies.

(5) Portable buildings: Portable classrooms are often unhealthy places due to cheap construction that can result in poor ventilation, mold growth in floors, ceilings, walls and the gassing off of particle boards and other building materials.

(6) Multiple Systems: Many schools have several different ventilation systems installed at various times and in various states of disrepair. (When making additions, be sure to integrate systems.)

(7) Pollutant Sources: Classroom materials, art and science supplies, industrial arts areas, and gymnasiums all present particular pollutant problems not found in office buildings.

(8) Tight budget: Fiscal cutbacks lead to reduced maintenance. (Can we build superior buildings now so as to minimize the potential future impacts from such things as deferred maintenance? Yes…by making healthy school construction a priority.)

(9) Difficult political climates: The school system is cumbersome and complex, and many decisions involve small-p politics. Often there is a lack of adequate information about IAQ/IEQ concerns. There are also agendas which may not have healthy building as a priority.

“These issues make schools particularly susceptible to IAQ problems and less able than other organizations to deal with them.” (The Cutter Corporation 617-648-8700)

Other background information:

Tools for Schools:

Indoor Air Quality – Tools for Schools Action Kit for Canadian Schools – Health Canada

Indoor Air Quality In Canadian Schools