IAQ Design Tools for Schools
Children are our most precious assets, and they can be more vulnerable to many environmental contaminants than adults. Children's bodies are still developing, and they may be exposed to more environmental contaminants than adults because they eat, drink, and breathe more per pound of body weight, and because their behaviors — like putting things in their mouths and playing on and close to the floor — may bring them in greater contact with contaminants than typical adult behaviors.
Providing educational facilities that nurture the learning process is a fundamental societal responsibility that goes hand in hand with the goal of ensuring that every child receives a high quality education.
- In the United States, more than 53 million elementary and secondary students attend approximately 119,000 public and private schools.
- The average child spends about 1,300 hours in a school building each year; teachers and other employees spend even longer periods.
- Today, the average school building is about 42 years old.
- More than 75% of America's schools were built before 1970.
Unfortunately, in far too many cases, because of severe past budget shortfalls, many of our schools are in poor condition, leading to a host of environmental problems that can have dramatic impacts on children, staff, learning, and the fiscal bottom line. The General Accounting Office, and the National Center for Education Statistics of the Department of Education, among others, have documented the poor physical condition of many of our older school facilities (As of 03/07/07).
- Studies show that student achievement is related to the quality of the school environment and indoor air quality issues consistently rank among the top environmental risks to public health.
- In 1999, one in five schools in the United States reported unsatisfactory indoor air quality (IAQ); one in four had inadequate ventilation. Good indoor air quality is an important component of a healthy indoor environment, and can help schools reach their primary goal of educating children.
Indoor air problems can be subtle, and do not always produce easily recognized impacts on health, well-being, or the physical plant. Nevertheless, failure to prevent and respond promptly and effectively to IAQ problems that do arise can have serious health, cost, and educational consequences:
- Increasing long- and short-term health problems such as cough, eye irritation, headache, asthma episodes, and allergic reactions, and, in rarer cases, life- threatening conditions such as severe asthma attacks, Legionnaire's disease or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Promoting the spread of airborne infectious diseases;
- Aggravating asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Nearly one school-aged child in 13 has asthma, the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic disease. There is substantial evidence that indoor environmental exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, other pests, pet allergens, and molds play a role in triggering asthma symptoms. These allergens are found in the school indoor environment;
- Producing an unfavorable learning environment for children;
- Reducing productivity of teachers and staff due to discomfort, sickness, or absenteeism;
- Accelerating the deterioration and reducing the efficiency of the school's physical plant and equipment;
- Increasing the risk that school rooms or buildings will have to be closed, and occupants temporarily relocated;
- Straining relationships among the school administration, parents, and staff;
- Generating negative publicity that could damage a school's or administration's image and effectiveness; and,
- Creating potential liability problems.
While indoor air quality is a critically important aspect of creating and maintaining school facilities, many jurisdictions and organizations are embracing the concept of designing "High Performance Schools" that is based on an integrated "whole building" approach to address a myriad of important – and sometimes competing – priorities such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality, day-lighting, materials efficiency, and safety, all within the context of tight budgets and limited staff.
EPA views the IAQ Design Tools for Schools as a dynamic resource and strongly encourages visitors to comment on all aspects of the information presented here and bring to our attention any helpful additional resources or ways to present this information. Contact Us
- State and Local Requirements
- Printing IAQ Design Tools for Schools
State and Local Requirements
Many States and localities have enacted legislation and/or established regulations, standards or guidelines that will affect school design and construction issues in that community. Users of the information presented here should seek information on State legislation, local ordinances, and building codes to supplement information obtained here. In addition, all bid documents should include a requirement to comply with all applicable State and local codes and standards.
Printing IAQ Design Tools for Schools
IAQ Design Tools for Schools is only available on-line. To print pages, you must print each page individually.
In preparing this voluntary guidance, EPA has drawn heavily from a number of materials that have already been developed across the country addressing high performance schools. The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Best Practices Manual (BPM) and the U.S. Dept. of Energy's National Best Practices Manual for Building High Performance Schools (PDF) have been particularly useful. Content reprinted/and or adapted from the CHPS Best Practices Manual is by permission of The Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Inc. The CHPS Best Practices Manual is copyrighted by CHPS, Inc. End users of the BPM content are permitted to use and or copy the content without further consent. However, the permission of CHPS, Inc. must be obtained in order to re-license, publish or develop derivative works from CHPS copyrighted materials. Many other resources have also been used in the development of IAQ Design Tools for Schools and users of this guidance are strongly encouraged to refer to referenced resources and to the Links page to assist them in designing schools using a fully integrated whole building approach.
- National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Department of Education. 2000. Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 1999. NCES 2000-032.
- US General Accounting Office. School Facilities: Condition of America's Schools. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office (GAO/HEHS-95-61); 1995.
- National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes? Mark Schneider. November 2002.