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Utilizing IoT for Air Quality Monitoring in Schools and Universities

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Jason Pohl

It’s common knowledge that outdoor air pollution can have a significant impact on human health. Yet, contaminant levels indoors can often be two to five times higher than those outside. When you take into account that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, it becomes clear that indoor air quality must be a top priority to protect the health and well-being of building occupants. And perhaps nowhere is this more true than in educational settings. 

Researchers have consistently found a direct relationship between air quality and student outcomes. Today, air quality monitoring in schools and universities is a must-have to protect the well-being of students and support the educational experience.  

Why Air Quality Matters in Education

Schools and universities should nurture students and the learning process. But this isn’t always the case. In the United States, millions of students and faculty are exposed to poor air quality that impacts their ability to learn and teach every day.

What the research tells us:

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Physical Health

Poor indoor air quality can have a profound impact on physical health. Short-term effects can include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Long-term effects can be serious and include respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.

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Attendance

Studies show that poor air quality increases absences. Even at relatively low levels of pollution, students often miss class due to respiratory infections, allergies, and other adverse reactions, such as exacerbated symptoms of asthma. Not only does this impact student performance, absences can also adversely affect the per-pupil spending of an institution.

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Concentration

Poor air quality can lead to fatigue and affect concentration, compromising the performance of both students and faculty. Researchers have found that thermal comfort and airborne pollutants can have a significant affect on productivity, accuracy, and overall quality of work.

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Legal liabilities

Schools and universities don’t just have ethical responsibilities to protect students and faculty, they may also have legal obligations—and failing to meet those obligations can be costly. In 2021, for example, “the town of Wilton, Connecticut has recently agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement following a lawsuit regarding the environmental conditions, namely, the poor indoor air quality at a local school.”


Air quality issues in educational settings can have a devastating impact on both individuals and communities. But there are solutions, and it starts with identifying the causes of indoor air pollution.

Notable Causes of Poor Air Quality in Schools

Many factors can contribute to poor air quality in schools. The most common include:

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Poor ventilation

Ventilation must be adequate for occupancy levels. Airborne pollutants such as bacteria, dust, and mold as well as naturally occurring compounds such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide can spread easily through indoor ventilation systems, especially if systems are not properly maintained.

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Architecture and infrastructure

Many facilities have been around for decades and have not been updated to protect against environmental hazards such as moisture, dust, and airborne pollutants. In other cases, modern facilities have been designed to be airtight to optimize energy efficiency, which compromises air quality by limiting opportunities for natural ventilation.

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Location

Where a school or university is located can play a significant role in the kind and concentration of pollutants its students and faculty are exposed to.


Some factors, like ventilation, may be relatively straightforward to correct. Others, like location, cannot be addressed directly but can be compensated for in other ways. While there is no single solution for all institutions, intelligent air quality monitoring systems can help you optimize safety and create strategies that make sense for the property. 

Intelligent Air Quality Monitoring in Schools and Universities 

IoT-driven air quality monitoring in schools and universities allows you to create healthier, safer spaces for students and faculty. 

In an integrated, intelligent air quality monitoring system, strategically placed IoT sensors continuously measure airborne contaminants throughout the building. That sensor data is then sent to an intelligent building management platform (IBMP), like onPoint. By monitoring air quality data in real time, onPoint can notify stakeholders of potential problem areas and uncover relationships between air quality, equipment, and environmental variables. With these insights, you can develop effective automation strategies that promote human health. For example, HVAC functions can be driven by occupancy levels to ensure that ventilation is always sufficient for the number of students in each classroom.

Smart air quality monitoring in schools and universities also allows you to take a proactive approach to maintenance. Rather than rushing to fix problems after they occur, onPoint predicts when issues are likely to occur in the future and gives building operators the opportunity to make changes before equipment or air quality is affected—and with minimal disruption.

With smart technologies, you gain powerful new ways to support learning and make meaningful investments in the next generation.

Buildings IOT offers state-of-the-art services and products for truly intelligent air quality monitoring in schools and universities. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

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