Building Better Schools: The Importance of Proper Ventilation

Is your building properly ventilated? What is proper ventilation? How do you know if you have it? These may not be the burning questions you ask yourself when evaluating student performance, but if your key business is education, perhaps they should be at the top of your list.

Some facilities personnel see ventilation as an operational challenge at best, a large expense at worst. However, recent studies have shown that cognitive ability is significantly dependent on the levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) inhaled in the space.

While carbon dioxide is already part of the natural environment at a level of about 400 parts per million (ppm), improper ventilation can quickly lead to levels above 1400 ppm or higher. Why does this matter? In a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, cognitive tests showed a decline of almost 50% in cognitive function when carbon dioxide levels approach 1400 ppm.

Total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) concentration had a similar story as the carbon dioxide, with a 13% decrease in cognitive function when elevated TVOC levels are present.
What does that mean in English? Students perform better when the air they breathe is cleaner.

Does this mean you should start fully opening every outside air intake in your facility? Probably not. However, a detailed evaluation of your existing system performance, considering occupancy patterns, equipment performance, building air balance, and energy usage may not only affect your bottom line, but may also result in higher test scores and a more marketable product.

As a side effect of proper ventilation and environmental control, building materials tend to last longer, mold and other environmental hazards are usually reduced, occupant comfort is significantly increased, and people are more productive. In short, a healthy building means happier and healthier occupants.

If maximizing your educational facility’s potential is important to you, let us evaluate your building and provide you with the information you need to excel, please do not hesitate to contact Stephen E. Oskin, PE, LEED AP at (814) 237-2180 or