How Healthy Schools Save Money

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality

PHOTO © GAUDILAB

Clean the air, save money. Sounds simple, but how? The best way to keep your air clean is to not let it become dirty in the first place. This means prevention by identifying, stopping or controlling sources such as idling vehicles; lack of proper entry matting, particles from poorly filtered vacuums or HVAC systems; chemical VOCs from building, furnishing or cleaning materials; fragrances in products or on people and poorly sealed or insulated buildings.

It also means ensuring ventilation in a manner that does not inflate energy costs, either on a room-by-room basis via a central HVAC system or using a Heat Recovery or Energy Recovery Ventilator (HRV or ERV). Still, the cost of energy is less than the cost of an absent teacher or student.

Per Jeff May in his book, My Office is Killing Me, “One indoor air quality professional estimates that the annual cost of an employee is about 100 times greater than the energy cost to keep a building heated, cooled and ventilated for that one person. If an employer saves an energy cost of $1 a day by reducing the ventilation in a building, and an employee who is paid $100 a day misses a day of work because of illness, the employer’s net loss is $99 (the salary is paid to the employee even if he or she is out sick).”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites increases in Average Daily Attendance (ADA) as a main benefit to schools with better indoor air quality: “The majority of a school’s operating budget is directly dependent on ADA, so even a small increase can significantly boost the operating budget.”

Evidence shows a clear association between IAQ and respiratory ills, including asthma. Per the CDC, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism.

Per the Connecticut Foundation for Environmentally Safe Schools: “Lockport Township High School in Lockport, Ill., reported a three percent increase in the average daily attendance after the first year of implementing an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan.”

“Schools in Syracuse, N.Y., documented gains in attendance of 11.7 percent, which yielded added state funding of $2,512,250.00 the first year after using a cleaning for health regime. The school district’s use of highefficiency filter backpack vacuuming, systematic disinfecting of desks and surfaces were among the measures used in the program.”

Per the EPA: “Evidence continues to mount demonstrating that indoor air quality, or IAQ, directly impacts student academic performance and health.”

“In one study, students in classrooms with higher outdoor air ventilation rates scored 14 to 15 percent higher on standardized test scores than children in classrooms with lower outdoor air ventilation rates.”

“Studies demonstrate that improved IAQ increases productivity and improves the performance of mental tasks, such as improved concentration and recall in both adults and children.”

William J. Fisk, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, estimated fiscal gains of better indoor air quality amounted to savings “of $6 to $14 billion from reduced respiratory disease; $2 to $4 billion from reduced allergies and asthma; $15 to $40 billion from reduced symptoms of sick building syndrome; and $20 to $200 billion from direct improvements in worker performance…” and that “potential financial benefits of improving indoor environments exceed costs by factors of 9 and 14.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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