School Business Affairs May 2020

40 MAY 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS Indoor air quality can be measured and addressed in a variety of ways. IoT Sensors and Improved Air Quality By Terrence DeFranco facilities T he health and comfort of students and teachers are important to learning and achieving. Yet a 2014 National Center for Education Statistics report found that nearly half the schools in the United States have problems related to indoor air quality. These problems are linked to the presence of radon, mold, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and dust particles (see Table 1). District officials can detect these pol- lutants and others with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Placed strategically, these sensors can provide frequent, real-time samples of the air in the areas in which they are located. For example, carbon monoxide (CO) is impossible to smell, taste, or see. At low and moderate concentrations, it could cause fatigue or impaired vision; at high concentrations it could be fatal. CO sensors are especially important for facilities that include garages that house trucks or buses. Studies have shown that high carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) levels can contribute to discomfort, drowsiness, and diminished cognitive abilities, so CO 2 monitoring is important. CO 2 sensors can lead not only to better air quality, but also to better energy consumption because its presence is an indicator of whether the facility is over- or underventilated. By monitoring CO 2 levels and providing ventilation on an as-needed basis, districts can maintain healthy air qual- ity and reduce energy use. IoT sensors are calibrated to the finest increments of output, so they can relay actual conditions that the users can inter- pret. Real-time indoor air quality condi- tions can be viewed on a system dashboard; threshold alerts can be set at specific FRANCESCO SCATENA/STOCK.ADOBE.COM Table 1. Common Indoor Air Pollution Sources in Schools Pollutant Source Particulate matter (PM) Laser printers Radiators Vacuum cleaners Cooking Nearby outdoor sources Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) Cleaning agents Carpeting/furniture Formaldehyde from building materials and furnishings Paints, glues, art materials Science storerooms Newly painted surfaces Carbon monoxide (CO) Idling school buses Inadequate ventilation Poorly vented indoor combustion sources, such as gas heaters and appliances Lead Lead-based paint Mold Leaky roofs Soiled or water-damaged materials High humidity