Assessment of indoor air quality in Texas elementary schools

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Sanders, Mark Daniel, 1973-

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Poor indoor air quality in schools is associated with diminished learning, health risks to students and staff, and economic costs. This dissertation reports findings from the Texas Elementary School Indoor Air Study (TESIAS). The objective of this investigation is to establish a baseline for indoor environmental parameters. The investigation selected 30 elementary schools from 2 school districts. One school district was located along the Texas/Mexico border in a hot-humid climate region. The other school district was located in central Texas in a mixed-humid climate region. Phase I of the study was a questionnaire completed by 1336 teachers and other school staff. Phase II of the study collected both qualitative and quantitative data in 120 classrooms including continuous monitoring of comfort parameters (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity). Phase III collected more in-depth quantitative data, including fungi and bacteria concentrations, in 12 classrooms. This dissertation investigates potential differences in the study data between school districts and between portable and traditional classrooms. The two major findings of this study concern water leakage from roofs and inadequate ventilation. Roof leaks were the highest reported source of water incursion and correlated with health symptoms. Free-standing small footprint classrooms had fewer roof and wall leaks than traditional classrooms. The simple low pitch roof design and sufficient overhangs typically found on the small footprint buildings studied likely result in less reported roof leaks. The measured carbon dioxide concentrations (both average and peak values) were well in excess of the recommended maximums and fewer than 15% of the classrooms met the recommended maximum concentrations. Relatively higher CO2 concentrations and relative humidity in the border school district were attributed to a greater frequency of blocked outdoor air intakes. Further investigation of novel HVAC systems, such as low velocity displacement ventilation, is needed. Ultimately, this study enables the development of best practices for school design for improved indoor air quality.