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Cleaner indoor air can help children and staff be more productive and successful.

Cleaner indoor air can help children and staff be more productive and successful.

Quality HVAC system design, operation and maintenance are critical for providing healthy IAQ in schools.

Properly functioning HVAC systems provide adequate ventilation, control odors and reduce the pollutants that cause most IAQ problems inside school buildings. In addition to improving occupant health and performance, regular HVAC maintenance saves energy.

In anticipation of the colder months, schools should pay special attention to their HAVC units, including:

Be aware of indoor humidity levels as the outside temperature drops. To protect health, comfort, the school building and its contents, it is important that indoor relative humidity be maintained below 60%, ideally between 30% and 50%.

Did You Know?

In colder climates, there can be operating conditions which will cause freezing within the energy recovery heat exchanger and it is often necessary to equip ERV systems with a frost control option.

  •  Ensure that facilities and maintenance staff change filters on a regular basis. Air filters should have a dust-spot rating between 35% and 80% or a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) between 8 and 13 depending on the compatibility of your air handling unit. The higher the MERV rating, the more particulates will be filtered.
  • Ensure proper ventilation as there are significant spatial and seasonal variations in the volume of air delivered by most HVAC systems. Learn more by checking out the ASHRAE Standard 62-2013.
  • Have a plan to ensure HVAC systems are functioning property over winter and holiday breaks. With intermittent building occupancy over breaks, outdoor air ventilation rates may need to be adjusted. Check all air registers to ensure that they are not obstructed by furniture or large objects that may have been moved inadvertently.

HVAC Resources

Checklist: Download and use the ventilation checklist. Tailor it to fit the needs of your individual school or district.

Software: The School Advanced Ventilation Engineering Software (SAVES) package is a tool to help school designers assess the potential financial payback and indoor humidity control benefits of Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) systems for school applications. Both SAVES software tools (the Energy Recovery Ventilation Financial Assessment Software Tool (EFAST) and the Indoor Humidity Assessment Tool (IHAT)) can be downloaded here.

Standards: School HVAC systems should be designed and operated to provide a minimum outdoor air ventilation rate consistent with current ASHRAE Standards 62.1. For classrooms, this standard is about 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outdoor air per person.

Webinars: Poorly maintained HVAC units can lead to IAQ problems, such as mold issues. For additional information on how to create healthy learning environments in the winter, download the two webinars, Mold and Moisture: Double Trouble for Schools and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools – Basics for Winter.

Source: EPA

Protect school’s IAQ with air cleaners

While the HVAC system plays a major role in keeping a school’s indoor air environment healthy and comfortable, many educational facilities are plagued by poor indoor air quality, which can negatively affect students, teachers and staff.

Health, well-being and productivity may suffer when the air contains high levels of VOCs, mold, bacteria, viruses, allergens, particles and chemical fumes.

Apart from source control and ventilation, schools can improve their indoor air quality with a few well-placed indoor air cleaners. Electrocorp has designed a variety of indoor air purifiers for schools and universities that provide cleaner and more breathable air all day long.

Electrocorp has designed a wide range of air cleaners for schools, universities and daycare facilities. The air purifiers come with a deep-bed activated carbon filter, a HEPA filter and optional UV germicidal filtration.

For more information, please contact Electrocorp.

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Researcher uses social media to keep track of flu outbreaks.

A social media–monitoring program led by San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou could help physicians and health officials learn when and where severe outbreaks are occurring in real time.

In results published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Tsou demonstrated that his technique might allow officials to more quickly and efficiently direct resources to outbreak zones and better contain the spread of the disease.

“There is the potential to use social media to really improve the way we monitor the flu and other public health concerns,”Tsou said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines flu season as the period from October through May, usually peaking around February.

But the unpredictability in exactly when and where outbreaks occur makes it difficult for hospitals and regional health agencies to prepare for where and when to deploy physicians and nurses armed with vaccines and medicines.

There’s about a two-week lag in the time between hospitals first noticing an uptick in flu patients and the CDC issuing a regional warning. Tsou and his colleagues, funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, wanted to find a quicker, more efficient way to identify these patterns.

They selected 11 U.S. cities and monitored tweets originating from within a 17-mile radius of those cities. Whenever people tweeted the keywords “flu” or “influenza,” the program would record characteristics about those tweets, including username, location, whether they were original tweets or retweets, and whether they linked to a Web site.

From June 2012 to the beginning of December, the algorithm recorded 161,821 tweets containing the word “flu,” 6,174 containing “influenza.”

Tsou compared his team’s findings to regional data based on the CDC’s definition of influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Nine of the 11 cities showed a statistically significant correlation between an increase in the number of tweets mentioning those keywords and regionally reported outbreaks.

Method picked up on outbreaks earlier

In five of those cities, Tsou’s algorithm picked up on the outbreaks earlier than the regional reports. The cities with the strongest correlations were San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle and Fort Worth.

“Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak,” Tsou said. “With our method, we’re detecting daily.”

Original tweets and tweets without Web site links also proved more predictive than retweets or those that did include links, possibly because original and non-linking tweets are more likely to reflect individuals posting about their own symptoms, Tsou said.

The next step in Tsou’s ongoing research will be hunting for even finer-grained correlations between ILI data and specific symptomatic keywords like “cough,” “sneeze,” “congestion,” and “sore throat.”

Tsou envisions this kind of “infoveillance” applying to a range of public health, such as monitoring regional incidences of heart attack or diabetes. The project is connected to a larger SDSU initiative, Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, one of the university’s four recently selected Areas of Excellence. Tsou is a core faculty member for the initiative.

“In social media, there’s a lot of noise in the data,” Tsou said. “But if we can filter that noise out and focus on what’s relevant, we can find all kinds of useful connections between real life and cyberspace.”

Source: San Diego State University

Concerned about exposure to the flu virus or other indoor air contaminants that can affect health and well-being? Electrocorp has designed commercial and industrial air cleaners for a wide range of applications, including offices and other workplaces. The air purifiers can remove airborne viruses, bacteria, mold spores, chemicals, gases, odors, particles, allergens and dust. Contact Electrocorp for more information.

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