Indoor Air Quality, a Critical Component in Higher Education Institutions

When you think about campus life for a college student, indoor air quality (IAQ) probably isn’t at the top of one’s mind when choosing their institution of choice. However, indoor air quality is a critical component for healthy learning environments. The air we breathe is directly correlated to absenteeism rates; increases in asthma and wide-spread transmission of airborne viruses and other harmful airborne particles; and it can also significantly impact one’s ability to concentrate.

Good quality indoor air is dependent on building maintenance and energy management strategies that maintain mechanical ventilation equipment to the high of standards ANSI/ASHRAE Standards 62.1 and 62.2. which are the recognized standards for ventilation system design and acceptable indoor air quality. These standards specify the minimum ventilation rates and other protocols to minimize adverse health effects for occupants.

Protocols may include a regimented cadence to change filters, frequency for equipment performance checks, and use of building automation to optimize HVAC performance within each building on campus.

Failure to prevent IAQ problems can increase long- and short-term health effects for students and staff, such as coughing; eye irritation; headaches; allergic reactions; aggravate asthma and/or other respiratory illnesses; and in rare cases, contribute to life-threatening conditions such as Legionnaire’s disease or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Many colleges and universities face challenges due to the aging infrastructure on their campuses. Small, underlit rooms, with limited airflow are the perfect breeding ground for mold. When mold is present, it can cause allergic symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itching, coughing, difficulty breathing, headache, and fatigue. In terms of mental health, low-quality indoor air antagonizes depression and anxiety within the student population.

New pressures placed on higher education facilities to incorporate sustainable designs in new builds and retrofit projects consider how the HVAC equipment and building management system supports regulating room temperature and humidity to the ASHRAE Standards for good indoor air quality. Investing in energy-efficient HVAC systems also increases cost savings from energy consumption while providing those on campus with ideal learning environments.

Cleaner Air With Stark Tech

Stark Tech, a leader in facility optimization, partnered with a global leader in air purification systems, to engineer a cost-effective solution that addresses and achieves ASHRAE’s recommended guidelines for increased air ventilation and filtration. The technology incorporates a fan filtering unit (FFU) to improve ventilation by increasing the air changes per hour (ACH) to 6-10 ACH and only draws less than 2 amps of power to operate.

The system works by drawing air via the FFU through a pre-filter and circulates it through the Disinfecting Filtration System to capture any dangerous sub-micron particles and then cleans and processes the air supply.  The FFU circulates the air using a short, streamlined airflow avoiding any horizontal streamlines so there are no dead spots in the space. This creates optimal airflow patterns with high supply and low returns.

This technology works independently or in conjunction with existing HVAC systems and is compatible with drop or hard ceilings. Due to the energy-efficient solution requiring less than 115 Volt/1 Ph to operate, it’s quiet and remains compliant with Noise Criterion (NC) 35.

To test and prove the technology, Stark Tech implemented six beta testing sites in mostly classroom settings across New York State. Our team installed the test units to prove out the technology against ASHRAE 52.2 Test for Efficiency and Resistance. Through third-party validation by Blue Haven Technologies, each beta site showed 100% efficiency down to 0.3 microns, drawing less than 1 amp of power.

Stark Tech is working with universities across the East Coast to integrate the best indoor air quality strategies for campus life.