COVID-19 Boosted Investment in Air Filtration in Kindergarten to High School Schools, But Technology Not Immediately Solved

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Professor Mark Hernandez of the University of Colorado at Boulder, student Ricardo Reyes of the Faculty of Engineering and Hallesago of the Faculty of Architecture count microorganisms in the Boulder classroom desk in the spring of 2021. Credit: Glenn Asakawa / CU Boulder, CC BY-ND

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly drawing attention to the air quality in the room and the effect that ventilation reduces disease transmission in the room. NOT. Recent infrastructure survey Of the 100,000 or so public school buildings operating in the United States, more than a third are in urgent need of upgrading ventilation systems to help control indoor air quality and the release of “aerosols.” I reported it.

Aerosol is a term used to describe the millions of fine particles that float in the air, both indoors and outdoors. People constantly inhale and exhale aerosols. These include allergens, particles in car exhaust, forest fire ash, and microbes.

University of Colorado Environmental engineering team I have been studying the microbiological components of indoor air called “bioaerosols” for over 25 years. Ventilation system Hundreds Kindergarten to high school class, Medical establishment And restaurant..And we’ve provided facility managers with an affordable improvement plan. Indoor air quality..

Our own work Not just others Unfortunately, many classrooms were poorly ventilated, and better ventilation has been found to reduce student absenteeism due to illness, both during pandemics and under normal circumstances.

A survey of air filtration system installations over the past year has shown that reducing aerosol levels can significantly improve air quality in classrooms. This reduces the risk of infection with COVID-19. However, efficient installation is important.

A new era of filtration

As the pandemic continues to highlight the need for better ventilation and better indoor air quality, Many academic institutions, Government agency, non-governmental organizations and Professional Association of Architectural Sciences Promoted best building management practices to improve school ventilation.

Some building scientists want to raise the ventilation conditions in schools to the levels prescribed by the clinic. Unfortunately, the infrastructure investment required for this level of upgrade is far from achievable for many public buildings. Even between 2008 and 2017 only State funding for schools That’s $ 20 billion, or 31% savings.

In Lack of funds Due to major building improvements, some schools have introduced simple indoor filtration techniques to improve ventilation in classrooms where many students spend their days in densely populated areas. However, these filters are only installed in a small proportion of public schools across the country.

This technology, called High Efficiency Particulate Air Filtration (HEPA), originated in the aerospace industry over 50 years ago. HEPA filtration has been proven to effectively remove fine airborne particles, including respiratory viruses, from the air in busier spaces such as classrooms.

In recent years, a new generation of HEPA filters has emerged from the US commercial sector. These filters are highly educational and less intrusive than research grade filters commonly used in the aerospace and pharmaceutical industries where a “clean room” is required. These latest models include improvements such as multi-directional intake, noise reduction, reduced power requirements, increased durability and a relatively small footprint.

HEPA filters have also become more widely used in the home in recent decades, in response to recognition. Increased rate of asthma in children.. However, it was rarely used in public schools until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bring fresh air into the classroom

In the spring of 2021 semester, our team installed hundreds of new HEPA filters in classrooms at public elementary schools in Denver, Colorado. It is the largest metropolitan mountain school district. These improvements were possible for recent reasons Industry-university cooperative Efforts between the University of Colorado, the Intel Foundation, and Career Corporation, a multinational ventilator company. Together, these organizations donated more than $ 500,000 for large-scale ventilation assessments of Denver-area schools, installation of HEPA filters and other air quality improvements.

Surveys of teachers, which have yet to be released in many of these classes, have overwhelmingly reported that this new generation of HEPA filters are well received and easily adapted in classrooms.

However, as with all engineering solutions, the effectiveness of the air filter depends on correct installation. Field research conducted by our team shows that a simple “plug and play” approach cannot address the complex reality of aerosol exposure in dense classrooms. We have found HEPA filters that are often too small to be placed in the wrong place, such as facing a wall or from a distance, and in some cases will not turn on.

The HEPA filter network should be installed with care and the process should take into account other factors such as the performance of the existing ventilation system, ceiling height, office layout and the presence or absence of ventilation fans. ceiling. HEPA filters can only be maximized if the school has the right number, size, and position.

The best HEPA filter installation takes into account details such as student seating plans, occupied areas, and other variables based on student behavior. Fortunately, facility managers and management staff can be trained to install, use, and maintain HEPA filters in their classrooms within a reasonable amount of time without distracting teachers.

Improving air quality is an investment in health and education

2020 Review of the indoor air quality strategy The cost of an individual HEPA filter sized for an elementary school classroom with average power consumption is estimated to be around $ 361. This matches the team’s experience with the Denver public school system, which typically has at least two per unit. Classroom For less than $ 800 per room. This is estimated to be roughly equivalent to the cost of an additional textbook per student during the year. In our opinion, this is well worth the potential improvement in indoor air quality in classrooms.

Indoor HEPA filtration is a long-term investment that complements existing ones ventilation system. COVID-19 has been the driving force behind the installation of many HEPA filters, but they are far more effective than simply reducing exposure to airborne viruses. A well-maintained, well-functioning filtration system is exposed to ashes from forest fires that can enter buildings and other unwanted particles such as allergens, car exhaust, tire debris, and dust. of construction. Also reduce.

However, even the best indoor HEPA filtration cannot guarantee protection against respiratory threats in school air. HEPA filters are only effective as part of an integrated approach. Ultimately, masking, distance, and reducing the number of students crammed into tight spaces will determine how well students are protected from COVID-19.

HEPA filters are a modern analogy to the indoor air quality “seat belts” of the COVID-19 era. Correctly adjusted, it only reduces the exposure that students experience during their school days to COVID-19 and other aerosols.


Which air purifier is best suited to removing aerosols containing viruses?


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COVID-19 Boosted Investment in Air Filtration in Kindergarten to High School Schools, But Technology Not Immediately Solved

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