Indoor Air Purification Provides Schools With Healthier, Sustainable Campuses

Health and sustainability are two of our most basic needs. And a healthier, more sustainable building has far-reaching impacts to the quality of occupant experience, the reduction of environmental stressors, and cost savings. 

Colleges and universities around the country, from SUNY Canton in New York to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, have made their campuses healthier and more sustainable through bipolar ionization (BPI). Typically colleges and universities have large groups of varied people who live, work, eat and sleep on campus, so high-performing buildings are crucial, especially in the post-pandemic world.

Why MERV filters aren’t enough

Many schools have looked at upgrading their MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filtration from an 8 to a 13. However, this will increase static pressure drop across the filter, actually resulting in lower airflow throughout the HVAC system. Additionally, MERV 13 filters are tested to be 50% efficient at capturing particles in the .3 to 1 um (micrometer) range. A coronavirus particle is .12 um. These particles are too small to be captured by MERV 13 filters.

Bipolar ion technology, on the other hand, is an active solution that produces positive and negative air ions that are spread into indoor spaces by the ventilation system. The ions attack airborne contaminants and produce healthy, clean indoor air. This solution has been used in countless buildings with a full range of systems in place. BPI and IAQ (indoor air quality) monitoring are also an essential part of a smart building or campus system, and can sync with a building’s current technology to ensure efficient energy use. The monitoring system can reduce or increase power depending on continuous, live monitoring of what’s in the air.

AtmosAir will seamlessly integrate with HVAC systems and require no re-engineering of the mechanical systems to accommodate them. Where no central HVAC exists, AtmosAir has small devices that can integrate with ventilators and other unitary systems. AtmosAir can also be provided in self-contained, standalone units in cases where there is no supply air source at all.

Because of its ability to improve indoor air quality, while not increasing operating costs and requiring costly HVAC re-engineering, AtmosAir’s BPI is the affordable and proven solution that empowers safety in buildings, regardless of their age or HVAC infrastructure.

Why schools need BPI

Prior to COVID, indoor air quality was too often overlooked, but it is now a central concern of all owners, regardless of the asset type — and higher education is no exception. Coronavirus aside, studies by groups, such as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Carnegie Mellon University, have shown that by improving IAQ, absenteeism decreases, productivity increases, and definite financial gains can be obtained.

In the case of a college or any school setting, people are often in densely occupied space, such as classrooms, dorm rooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, labs and training facilities. This leads to the easy spread of airborne illness from one person to another.

Using air purification to reduce airborne contaminants that lead to illness  from dust and spores to bacteria, viruses and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) — can reduce the spread of illness and help to reduce absenteeism by students, teachers and staff.

To satisfy ventilation codes and to provide good IAQ, air is mechanically brought in from outside and recirculated by the heating and cooling systems. However, when air is cleaned and purified, codes often allow for less outside air to be needed. This can save significant dollars as the majority of energy use in any college or university, or any commercial building is used by the heating and cooling systems, and the majority of energy used by the heating and cooling systems is to condition that outside air.

Who’s using BPI?

AtmosAir‘s technology is in buildings in more than 7,500 locations across the globe, but as a local example, SUNY Canton, the engineering school of the SUNY system, installed in-place IAQ testing that showed overall improvements to air quality in particle reduction, VOC reduction and airborne bacteria count reductions.

More recently, Central Wyoming College announced that it installed AtmosAir Solutions’ bipolar ionization indoor air purification technology to provide increased protection for community members, students, teachers and staff. The BPI technology was installed in most campus buildings, including classrooms, the library, tutor lab, health science spaces, athletic facilities, and the Robert A. Peck Center.

On the West Coast, the University of Southern California has used bipolar air ionization in its new 100,000-square-foot McKay Center and other training facilities on campus to provide as healthy an environment as possible for student athletes during rigorous training activities, where illness can be easily spread, and to reduce bacterial infections, such as MRSA, that are always a concern. UCLA also applied these air purification systems in their training facilities to benefit student athletes.

A healthy and sustainable building is a requirement much more than a desire in today’s colleges and universities. Indoor air quality plays a vital role in keeping school buildings healthy, and also in assisting the building to operate as energy efficiently as possible. Bipolar air ionization air purification, is one strategy that has been applied successfully in many colleges and universities in help to achieve their health and sustainability goals, and instill confidence again in the places people learn.