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Ways to increase indoor environmental quality in schools (and improve test scores)

January-February 2013

Research studies show relationships between indoor environmental quality and increased test scores, decreased absenteeism, increased employee retention, and other measurable criteria.

While achieving a LEED Platinum rating, as done by Sidwell Friends Middle School, is a worthy goal, comparatively simple steps in existing school buildings can improve indoor environmental quality.

Green in a Box

For example, "Green in a Box” (GIB) is a program developed to assist schools in achieving increased energy savings, indoor environmental quality, and the best environmental practices for the twenty-first century. The volunteer LEED for Schools committee, North Texas Chapter of the US Green Building Council, has set up a “lending library” of Green in a Box kits so that any school in North Texas (public or private, K-12 and higher education) can check out a box for a finite time and use it to increase their indoor air quality and decrease their utility bills.

These Green in a Box kits are available to facilities staff as well as to teachers for science-based programs and technology-based programs. With the kit, they can identify potential indoor air quality issues through conducting a building walkthrough with handheld air testing equipment and making informative measurement interpretations. Users are provided spreadsheets for logging in measurement data, LEED background materials with a LEED score sheet, and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency CD entitled “Tools for Schools.”

Hot Tub

What’s in a HOT Tub?

As part of the launch of the Green in a Box program, committee members used an HVAC/IAQ Hands-On-Training (Hot) Tub on loan from the Fluke Education Partnership Program to demonstrate how to evaluate indoor environmental quality at an EPA Tools for Schools Conference. The HOT Tubs allow educators to conduct hands-on lab sessions using loaner test tools from Fluke.

There are five types of HOT Tubs (HVAC/IAQ, digital multimeter, insulation test, power quality, process tools, and thermal imaging). Each HOT Tub traveling lab is available for a two-week period on a first-come, first-serve basis. Use of the tub is FREE, however the educator is responsible for return shipping costs.

The HVAC/IAQ HOT Tub contains tools (with manuals) such as a particle counter and airflow meter, with software, connectors, tubing, and other essentials (even spare batteries).

Photo Courtesy Karen Benson

Photo Courtesy Karen Benson

More about Green in a Box »

The EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools »

Fluke Education Partnership Program »

“My First Fluke” program »