A structured environment in which children learn is a fairly new concept in the history of humankind. The idea of what makes schools “good” has evolved dramatically in the last century, and the subject of school building design continues to be debated and studied today. Understanding how environmental standards in schools have changed to provide students with healthier environments helps stakeholders better appreciate the importance of building layup services and temporary climate control.
Timeline of Environmental Standards in Schools
- 1635: Boston Latin School is the first public school in the U.S. As cities grow in population and establish infrastructures for their growing societies, school buildings become the focus of reformers. Some early scholars complained that schools were badly located and exposed students to noise and dust.
- Late 1800s: Schools built during this time were utilitarian, standardized spaces designed to maximize student capacity, making them crowded and impersonal. Some referred to the buildings dank, dark and factory-like. It’s likely that a lack of temporary humidity control and ventilation contributed to the mustiness that some noticed in classrooms.
- Early 1900s: Ventilation and heating became hot topics among school designers. Even though automatic ventilation systems were relatively new during this time, practitioners understood the importance of fresh air for student comfort and learning. Many schools adopted ventilation rates of at least 30 cubic feet of fresh air per minute for each pupil using artificial ventilation systems.
- 1945 to 1960: After World War II, school construction boomed and architects began placing more attention on environmental standards within schools. Many schools installed air conditioning systems for the first time. New construction materials also made schools less expensive to build.
School officials and designers began exploring standards regarding heating and ventilation in classrooms. As a result, ventilation rates were lowered to 10 cubic feet of fresh air per minute. The idea of thermal comfort was a relatively new notion that some designers and engineers found to be more complex than expected, particularly considering the effects of temperatures on relative humidity levels.
- 1960 to 1980: Many changes occurred in regards to air quality and comfort. The era’s energy crisis led designers to lower ventilation rate standards to a minimum of 5 cubic feet of fresh air per minute for all spaces. When smoking in classrooms was allowed, ventilation rates had to be at least 25 cubic feet per person per minute. The installation of HVAC systems increased during this era as well.
- 1990s to present: The U.S. Government Accountability Office called for the renovation of aging school facilities. Projects that followed included asbestos removal, enhancing building accessibility and lead removal from water supplies. Researchers found that the indoor environments within portable classrooms had significantly higher levels of air pollutants and unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide, paving the way for high-performance building designs.
Within the last couple decades, engineers and designers have placed a greater importance on studying the effects of building comfort, ventilation rates, humidity, and air pollutants on student performance and health, particularly in light of growing asthma rates. Most recently, schools began adopting natural ventilation and mixed-mode systems.
As schools implement “smart” building systems, they will increasingly monitor indoor air quality and energy consumption to optimize comfort and power use. While the health of comfort of students has been extensively examined, districts must also consider the health of buildings when school is not in session. Turing off comfort systems during breaks leaves buildings vulnerable to the damaging consequences of freezing temperatures, corrosion and humidity. Polygon’s building layup services protect facilities with energy-efficient, temporary humidity control solutions that prevent mold and mildew. Our services also include year-round temporary climate solutions for all stages of building’s life, from construction to the remediation of water, fire or mold damage. Contact Polygon today to learn how our solutions complement your efforts to maintain a healthy, eco-friendly learning environment.