ASHRAE / USGBC
Shared Screenshot Pandemic Iaq Report 6274118d067d0

Update on U.S. Schools' IAQ Pandemic Performance

May 5, 2022
School districts nationwide are still seeking additional guidance, according to follow-up research from USGBC's Center for Green Schools and ASHRAE.

ATLANTA (May 5, 2022) – ASHRAE provided technical support for a newly released report from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), detailing how school districts around the country have continued to manage air quality within their schools during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Managing Air Quality in the Pandemic: How K-12 Schools Addressed Air Quality in the Second Year of COVID-19” builds on an April 2021 report, “Preparation in the Pandemic: How Schools Implemented Air Quality Measures to Protect Occupants from COVID-19,” which was the first and only known national survey of on-the-ground implementation of indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements at schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report highlights the urgent need to better support school districts with implementation of airborne infection control strategies to support mitigation of the immediate COVID-19 threat, as well as future pandemics, seasonal epidemics and to improve overall indoor air quality.

“Studies have shown a direct link between indoor air quality in schools and student performance and attendance,” said 2021-22 ASHRAE President Mick Schwedler, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, LEED AP. “This study further underscores the importance of not only providing technical guidance for improving indoor air quality, but the need for practical implementation strategies. We trust that the findings in this report will lead to more knowledge sharing, expanded partnerships and greater investments to improve indoor air quality and decarbonize our schools.”

The report cites strategies and challenges from school districts serving over 2.6 million students in more than 4,000 schools. Findings shows that schools prioritized increasing outdoor air intake by whatever means were available to them and reflects on how the pandemic and schools’ responses to it have evolved. Importantly for national advocates, the survey responses indicate that school districts in different locales (urban versus non-urban) are seeking guidance from different types of sources.

“Maintaining good indoor air quality is vital to support the health and wellness of students and faculty,” said Anisa Heming, director for the Center for Green Schools. “School districts recognize that proper ventilation is critical to curbing the spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19. However, more than two years into the pandemic, they still need support to find the right strategies and resources to make the necessary changes.”

Additional findings:

  • Buildings’ HVAC systems were not designed to implement the recommendations, creating challenges not found to be associated with any particular school district characteristics studied, such as demographics, locale or size;
  • School district characteristics such as demographics, locale and size were not associated with the number of IAQ measures taken, but were associated with the implementation of specific measures, such as increasing outdoor air through HVAC systems and assessing outdoor air delivery;
  • American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding has been used to support the implementation of IAQ measures more than funding from operating or capital budgets;
  • Just over half of school districts reported feeling that access was available to funding to support additional IAQ-related building improvements;
  • Non-urban districts were more likely to lean on state and local guidance, while urban districts were more likely to use federal-level guidance and guidance from leading building industry organizations and associations such as ASHRAE;
  • Over a quarter of districts responded no new plans to implement additional ventilation, filtration or other building changes in schools.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted research for the report compiled from a national survey of public school districts during October-December 2021 to assess the implementation of a range of ventilation, filtration, disinfection and air quality monitoring strategies and was followed by focus group discussions with participants.

The full report can be found here.

About ASHRAE

Founded in 1894, ASHRAE is a global professional society committed to serve humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and their allied fields. As an industry leader in researchstandards writingpublishingcertification and continuing education, ASHRAE and its members are dedicated to promoting a healthy and sustainable built environment for all, through strategic partnerships with organizations in the HVAC&R community and across related industries. For more, contact Karen Buckley Washington, Senior Public Relations Specialist, [email protected].

About the U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, an international network of local community leaders, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit usgbc.org and connect on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

About the Center for Green Schools at USGBC

The Center for Green Schools is a global leader in advancing green schools, providing school districts and education leaders with resources and training to create sustainable, healthy, resilient and equitable learning environments. We support and train those implementing sustainability within school systems to be the most effective change agents they can be, through professional development, peer networks, research, and advocacy. Learn more at centerforgreenschools.org.