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COVID-19 spurred investment in air filtration in schools from kindergarten to high school, but technology is not immediately resolved

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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 at the desk in Boulder’s classroom in the spring of 2021. Credits: Glenn Asakawa / CU Boulder, CC BY-ND

The COVID-19 pandemic is gaining increasing attention for the quality of the air in the room and the effect that ventilation reduces the transmission of the disease in the room. NS Recent infrastructure survey Of the approximately 100,000 public school buildings operating throughout the United States, more than one-third urgently need to upgrade ventilation systems to help control indoor air quality and the diffusion of “aerosols.” I reported that.

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 from car exhaust, wildfire 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.I investigated Ventilation system Hundreds Classroom from kindergarten to high school, Medical facility And restaurant..And we provided facility managers with an affordable plan for improvement. Indoor air quality..

Our own work Not only of others Unfortunately, many classrooms were poorly ventilated, and improved ventilation was found to reduce student absenteeism due to illness, both during pandemics and during normal times.

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

A new era of filtration

As the pandemic continues to emphasize the need for better ventilation and indoor air quality, Many academic institutions, Government agency, Non-governmental organizations and Professional Architectural Science Association Has promoted better building management practices to improve school ventilation.

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

In Lack of funds Due to major building upgrades, some schools have introduced simple indoor filtration techniques to improve the ventilation of 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 (HEPA) filtration, was born in the aerospace industry over 50 years ago. HEPA filtration has been proven to efficiently remove fine airborne particles, including respiratory viruses, from air in higher occupied spaces such as classrooms.

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

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

Bringing fresh air to the classroom

In the spring semester of 2021, our team installed hundreds of new HEPA filters in the classrooms of public elementary schools in Denver, Colorado. This is the largest metropolitan school district in the mountains.These upgrades were possible for recent reasons Industry-academia 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 schools in the Denver area, installation of HEPA filters, and other improvements in air quality.

Teacher polls, which have not yet been published in many of those classrooms, overwhelmingly reported that this new generation of HEPA filters was welcomed and easily accommodated in the classrooms.

However, as with all engineering solutions, the effectiveness of the air filter depends on proper installation. Field research 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 in size to be improperly placed, such as facing a wall or at a distance, and in some cases do not turn on.

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

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

Improving air quality is an investment in health and education

2020 Review of indoor air quality strategy The cost of an individual HEPA filter sized for an elementary school classroom with average energy usage is estimated to be approximately $ 361. This is consistent with the team’s experience with the Denver Public School System, which typically has at least two per unit. Class room For less than $ 800 per room. This is estimated to be approximately equal to the cost of one additional textbook per student over the course of the year. In our opinion, it is well worth the potential improvement in classroom indoor air quality.

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 just reducing exposure to aerial viruses. A well-maintained and well-functioning filtration system is exposed to wildfire ash that can penetrate buildings and other unwanted particles such as allergens, car exhaust, tire debris, and construction dust. Also reduce.

However, even the best indoor HEPA filtration cannot guarantee protection from respiratory threats in the air at school. HEPA filters are only effective as part of an integrated approach. Ultimately, masking, distance, and reducing the number of students packed 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. Properly fitted, it only helps reduce the exposure that students experience during their school days to COVID-19 and other aerosols.


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COVID-19 spurred investment in air filtration in schools from kindergarten to high school, but technology is not immediately resolved

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