Public Release: 

ASHRAE studies impact of IAQ on classroom performance

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers

ATLANTA - Is it possible that Johnny can't read because Johnny can't breathe?

Upper respiratory tract infections account for most short-term absenteeism in schools, while allergy, asthma and symptoms of sick building syndrome contribute to longer absences. Absenteeism clearly affects school performance. Appropriate classroom design and operation can reduce symptom severity and incidence of complaints among children, according to published data.

"Improving classroom ventilation can thus be expected to reduce the incidence of such symptoms and therefore reduce absenteeism, increasing school performance," David Wyon, Ph.D., said.

Research to determine whether indoor air quality conditions in classrooms are negatively impacting children's health and their performance in school is being conducted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The principal investigators of the project, Indoor Environmental Effects on the Performance of School Work by Children, are Wyon and Pawel Wargocki, Ph.D., Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark. The project is expected to take two years with ASHRAE contributing $195,000 Research has shown that office work by adults is negatively affected by poor air quality. Work is improved by removing the source of indoor air pollution or by increasing outdoor air supply. It also has been found that temperatures in classrooms impact the performance of children.

"The current concern is that outside air ventilation rates per person are known to be low in classrooms, mainly due to an overemphasis on reducing installation and operation costs," Wyon said. "The resulting low air quality may be negatively affecting school performance."

The research will be carried out in occupied classrooms during school hours. Each experiment will simulate the environmental impact of a classroom HVAC upgrade by producing one or more of the following effects on the indoor environmental quality: reduced indoor air temperature and humidity in warm weather; better control of indoor air temperature; increased outdoor air supply rate leading to reduced levels of airborne pollutants; improved supply air quality; and fewer respirable particles.

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ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is an international organization of 55,000 members. It is the world's foremost technical society in the fields of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. Through its meetings, research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, the Society helps keep indoor environments comfortable and productive, deliver healthy and safe food to consumers and preserve the outdoor environment.

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