As the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the importance of indoor air quality, attention has rightly turned to schools, elder care homes and office buildings — any place where large groups of people congregate. University campuses are no less important, of course, and in fact provide a more complex challenge in many respects given the wide variety of activities that take place there. They function, in a way, like a miniature city, with housing, gyms, dining halls and even stadiums. Students are learning in classrooms, study halls and libraries, the faculty and staff go about their various jobs of work there, and, in many cases, students call the campus home.
Air quality fluctuates depending on how an indoor space is occupied and used, and therefore it’s difficult to certify it based upon a snapshot taken at a moment in time. To provide a bigger picture across the various indoor areas on campus, a thorough assessment is recommended — followed by science-driven-recommendations to implement any necessary changes and a program of continuous monitoring.
Changes could be as simple as providing ventilation by opening a window in order to dilute the air within or adding filtration by consistently running the HVAC systems to keep fresh air circulating. They could also include upgrading filtration by installing filters with a minimum MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values) of 13 or HEPA filters which are the gold standard.
Colleges and universities must take indoor air quality seriously not only to protect the health and wellness of those already on campus, but also to continue to attract new students. A new survey, published in July of this year by global real estate advisors and professionals Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), stated that: ‘Forty-eight percent of parents with high schoolers rank campus cleanliness and indoor air quality in the top three most important factors when asked their opinion on their child’s impending college or university selection, and a total of 84 percent of parents rank campus cleanliness and indoor air quality as either important or somewhat important.’ Whether it’s COVID or other infectious diseases like meningitis, the circulation of pathogens is a major concern for families choosing a university campus.So, where to begin? The answer lies in understanding the conditions of your specific spaces. A thorough indoor air hygiene evaluation of your university campus — such as that offered by the Indoor Air Hygiene Institute (The Institute) — will enable effective risk mitigation based on the activities in each location. Getting an accurate picture of what the indoor air quality is like in the variety of spaces on campus is key.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and therefore it is vital to take a proactive attitude towards air hygiene to ensure it can be optimized based on what is happening in a specific space. Just as energy efficiency is prioritized via new or retrofitted construction, campuses can address indoor air quality needs with a variety of approaches.
Working with an indoor air quality expert is highly advisable, and The Institute now offers The Inside Advantage™ Certification Program. This involves an extensive outcome-based diagnostics process, where indoor air hygienists work in partnership with universities to measure the quality of the air in real time and to help improve it through data-driven scientific recommendations. The certification is based on indoor air hygiene metrics that are actively monitored and managed to have a much more positive impact on student and staff health, wellness and productivity.
In addition, by working with a dedicated Hygienist, you will have tailored recommendations to avoid wasting time and money on products that may not be needed. There are plenty of technologies on the market with little proof to back up claims of efficacy. The Inside Advantage™ will ensure that higher education institutions have actual, demonstrated improvements to indoor air quality, making a better environment for students and staff now and into the future.
For further information on how the Indoor Air Hygiene Institute can help your university to open and stay open safely, please contact us at [email protected].
Ensure you are taking the right steps to provide quality indoor air. Give people the confidence to return indoors.