Mix of strategies helps boost ventilation in schools

By Carolyn Cooper

The Cleaner Air for Schools (CAFS) program, an initiative between partners Nerva Energy Group, Mohawk College and Climate Change Leaders, is the winner of the 2022 Clean50 Top Project Award. CAFS was recognized for its success in increasing ventilation in Ontario schools by an average of 40 percent, while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 27.7 percent.

The Clean50 Top Project Awards are hosted annually by Delta Management Group and the Canada’s Clean50 organization. The awards recognize the best sustainability-oriented projects completed in Canada in the past two years, and projects are chosen based on five criteria: impactful, innovative, inspiring, informative, and can readily be imitated.

The CAFS initiative came about after the federal and provincial governments introduced a COVID Resilience Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS), allowing the Ontario Ministry of Education to administer $685 million for education-related initiatives.

Launched in March 2020, “The Cleaner Air for Schools program was born from a COVID-19 pandemic task force comprised of engineers and indoor air quality (IAQ) specialists, whose key objective was to develop a solution that would help schools increase airflow and improve IAQ without sacrificing their energy performance goals and GHG emissions reduction benchmarks,” says Josh Lewis, engineering manager for Nerva Energy Group Inc. The Stoney Creek, ON based company offers strategies that use existing technology to improve IAQ and energy performance, and decrease GHG emissions.

Nerva Energy based its solution on the guidance from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) on COVID-19 transmission in schools showing that efforts to mitigate the risk of transmitting airborne pathogens should include a mix of strategies, including increased ventilation, adding better filtration, improving air distribution, and using other air cleaning or treatment technologies. A major challenge was the fact that many facilities were aging and had outdated mechanical infrastructure.

Rather than replacing equipment, Juan Malvestitti, director of sales and marketing for Nerva Energy, said the company “engineered a four-step process to help schools properly quantify their existing ventilation rates, rehabilitate aged and damaged ductwork infrastructure and optimize air handling units to maximize ventilation.”

In addition, says Lewis, CAFS “brought forward two award winning technologies that improve energy performance, while preventing the spread of COVID-19 by delivering cleaner, healthier air. These two technologies are aerosolized ductwork sealing and active air purification.” Lewis explains that aerosolized duct sealing “was developed at the Lawrence Berkley Institute over 20 years ago, yet until recently remained widely unknown in Canada. This innovative solution is transforming the way public buildings operate their facilities, helping to eliminate unnecessary energy waste and drastically reduce carbon emissions by fixing a pervasive efficiency problem found in almost every building – ductwork leakage. Active air purification technology was developed in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has been proven to reduce the spread of viruses, bacteria, mould, VOCs, and allergens within buildings, both in the air and on surfaces.

“Until the current pandemic, it has been primarily utilized by hospitals and the food processing industry to ensure the safety of their staff, patients, services, and product,” continues Lewis. “By expanding its reach into the wider building sector, this innovative solution is raising the bar on the expectations for IAQ, helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission today, and providing ongoing value to combat seasonal flus, colds, future pandemics, and ensure a high level of IAQ is achieved and maintained.”

In addition, says Lewis, CAFS “brought forward two award winning technologies that improve energy performance, while preventing the spread of COVID-19 by delivering cleaner, healthier air. These two technologies are aerosolized ductwork sealing and active air purification.” Lewis explains that aerosolized duct sealing “was developed at the Lawrence Berkley Institute over 20 years ago, yet until recently remained widely unknown in Canada. This innovative solution is transforming the way public buildings operate their facilities, helping to eliminate unnecessary energy waste and drastically reduce carbon emissions by fixing a pervasive efficiency problem found in almost every building – ductwork leakage. Active air purification technology was developed in the mid-1980s. Since then, it has been proven to reduce the spread of viruses, bacteria, mould, VOCs, and allergens within buildings, both in the air and on surfaces.

“Until the current pandemic, it has been primarily utilized by hospitals and the food processing industry to ensure the safety of their staff, patients, services, and product,” continues Lewis. “By expanding its reach into the wider building sector, this innovative solution is raising the bar on the expectations for IAQ, helping to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission today, and providing ongoing value to combat seasonal flus, colds, future pandemics, and ensure a high level of IAQ is achieved and maintained.”

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