Schools, Efficiency, COVID, and Air Quality

Source: rlmartin

State and local governments, including the State and Territory Energy Offices, are grappling with the significant level of investment it will take to ensure that K-12 students can safely return to school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a roundup of articles, opinion papers, and technical resources addressing indoor air-quality, energy efficiency, and other needed upgrades in schools.

First, NASEO Affiliate Member ASHRAE published guidance on the Reopening of Schools and Universities. ASHRAE provides a number of checklists and design guidelines for schools and universities to help them understand what steps may need to be taken to ensure a safe and clean learning environment for students. The guidance also instructs schools on the routine maintenance they should perform to minimize COVID-19 circulation in buildings.

Second, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), NASEO, the National Council on School Facilities, and the 21st Century School Fund issued an op-ed calling for federal funding to upgrade K-12 school heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The authors note that such investments will help schools save money on energy and reduce the risk of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Third, an article by Tom Walther, Market Director – ESCO Solutions of WESCO Energy Solutions (a NASEO Affiliate member) discusses how Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) can be used to finance air quality improvement systems in schools.  Walther highlights  the strong track record of ESPCs in financing improvements for school facilities and their potential use for needed HVAC upgrades to support safe operations. 

Fourth, a June 2020 U.S. Government Accountability Office report finds that about half of U.S. public school districts need to update or replace multiple school buildings in their jurisdictions.

Finally, consulting firm McKinsey & Company released an article that discusses technical aspects for air quality in schools. The article discusses potential options for air purification, airflow management, and individual protections as ways to improve building safety and increase use confidence in building sanitation.

These articles and resources all provide State Energy Officials with food-for-thought as state and local governments work toward energy efficient and COVID-19 safe school facility operation.