Campus Air Quality: The Impact of Commercial HVAC Systems in Higher Education


IAQ on College Campuses

A well-functioning HVAC system can improve air circulation and reduce the risk of airborne illnesses in commercial buildings, scientific labs, colleges and schools.

HVAC systems maintain a comfortable and healthy indoor environment by bringing in fresh, outside air and circulating it. This exchange of air is a crucial factor in maintaining healthy oxygen levels and reducing indoor air pollutants in indoor work environments.

Poor HVAC system maintenance can lead to decreased indoor air quality. Then an accumulation of dust, mold, and bacteria can lead to “sick building syndrome” as existing HVAC systems blow contaminated air throughout the building.

Sick building syndrome can cause illness and other health problems. Building occupants may complain of headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; respiratory issues; nausea; fatigue; and concentration problems.

It’s vital to keep HVAC systems well-maintained, cleaned and fitted with high-efficiency HEPA air filters that trap dust, pollen, and mold spores. An efficiently operating system will maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels, which prevents mold and mildew growth.

Why is IAQ Important?

It’s essential to maintain indoor air quality in commercial buildings, since poor air quality can significantly harm human health. Air quality concerns have been linked to both short-term health issues (such as asthma and respiratory illness) and long-term health issues (such as cancer and cardiovascular disease).

Good IAQ can also play a role in creating a comfortable and productive work environment. Breathing in clean and fresh air can increase the comfort, focus, and productivity of building occupants.

The impact of indoor air quality problems on the environment is a less talked about, but equally important, problem. Commercial buildings with IAQ problems may require more air conditioning and ventilation, which can drive up energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

IAQ Impacts in Specific Industries

The impact of appropriately ventilated, pollutant-free buildings can be considerable in commercial, industrial, and educational settings.

Colleges and Universities

Campus buildings, college dormitories and college facilities have students, faculty and staff who spend a significant amount of time indoors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research finds indoor air quality concerns and poor campus cleanliness can:

  • Cause sickness among occupants
  • Lower cognitive function and academic performance
  • Increase absenteeism

Improving campus indoor air quality can drive better academic performance, reduce absenteeism, and support occupant wellbeing. It also can improve the higher educational institution’s reputation and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations mandated by the government.

Specialized Labs

The unique operations of specialized labs demand a high level of indoor air quality. Indoor air quality problems can:

  • Impact research outcomes
  • Lower research integrity
  • Contaminate samples
  • Lead to dangerous chemical interactions
  • Lower health and safety for researchers
  • Affect equipment performance
  • Lower productivity

Maintaining a healthy indoor environmental quality in labs is crucial for accurate research outcomes and occupant safety and health.

Specialized Temperature Controlled Storage

Specialized temperature controlled facilities store goods that are sensitive to temperature, humidity, and air quality conditions, where poor air quality can:

  • Degrade, spoil or damage stored foods, pharmaceuticals, biological samples and sensitive materials
  • Cause chemical interactions that alter the properties of stored items, such as pharmaceuticals, where poor air quality can degrade or change their composition.
  • Lead to unchecked microbial growth
  • Compromise the integrity of lab and research samples
  • Impair the functioning of electronic equipment
  • Lower the longevity of products being stored
  • Lower a facility’s energy efficiency
  • Affect employee health and safety

These are just some of the many ways that indoor air quality degradation can impact industrial, commercial and educational spaces.

Health Regulations and IAQ Regulatory Bodies

IAQ regulations and guidelines for commercial and industrial spaces can vary by location, with most standards established by governing bodies to promote occupant safety and well-being.

Businesses and facility managers must adhere to IAQ regulations applicable to their location and industry. Meeting these regulations protects human health and prevents legal and regulatory problems.

10 Steps to Better Indoor Air Quality

To enhance IAQ in commercial and industrial spaces, it is essential to improve HVAC system operation. Here are 10 air quality measures you can take to achieve this goal:

  1. Regular Maintenance. Performing regular maintenance keeps the system running efficiently and prevents the accumulation of pollutants that can harm indoor air quality. Schedule routine maintenance for your HVAC system, which includes filter replacement, coil cleaning, ductwork checkups, and system performance inspection.
  2. High-Quality Filters. Select air filters that are highly efficient in capturing a broad spectrum of particulates, such as dust, pollen, and allergens. Make sure the filters are correctly installed and replaced per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Optimize Ventilation. Maintain proper air ventilation rates according to industry standards and local regulations. Utilize mechanical ventilation systems that adjust airflow according to occupancy levels to prevent over-ventilation.
  4. Control Humidity. Keep indoor relative humidity levels at 30-60% to avoid mold growth and increase comfort. Use dehumidification systems in humid climates and humidification systems in dry climates.
  5. Seal and Clean Ductwork. To enhance the HVAC system’s efficiency and keep outdoor pollutants out, check and seal leaks and regularly clean HVAC ductwork.
  6. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment. Upgrade HVAC equipment to energy-efficient models that offer better filtration, variable-speed fans, and improved ventilation control.
  7. Implement Filtration Upgrades. Improve air quality by installing air purifiers or additional filtration systems that target viruses, bacteria, and mold spores, such as UV-C lights or HEPA filters.
  8. Implement Air Quality Monitoring. Continuously monitor IAQ parameters like temperature, relative humidity, CO2 levels, and particulate matter with air quality sensors.
  9. Regularly Clean and Maintain. Prevent mold and microbial growth by cleaning HVAC system components like coils, drip pans, and drain lines. Make sure the entire system, including supply and return air registers, is clean and clear of dust and debris.
  10. Seek Help. Work with Goodway HVAC experts and IAQ specialists to evaluate your unique requirements and create customized solutions.

IAQ improvement is an ongoing process that requires attention and dedication. Regular monitoring, adjustments, and continuous maintenance are vital for maintaining a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.

Next Steps

Goodway offers a variety of methods to improve indoor air quality levels. You can clean ducts with Goodway duct cleaning tools and chemical agents; use Goodway coil cleaning agents and tools to prevent contaminant building up on evaporator and condenser coils; and employ Goodway scale removers and tools to remove scale buildup from cooling towers and air conditioning systems. Consult a Goodway sales representative to identify the ideal product combination for IAQ concerns.

Read more blogs about Indoor Air Quality here

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