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Stylized Text: Energy Efficient Schools: Diagnostic Testing.

Discussion and Conclusions

Significant ventilation problems were present in each of the eight audited schools. These problems appear to be occurring due to a combination of factors including lack of maintenance, lack of knowledge of the systems and in some cases poor system design. It also appears that since ventilation air problems are not easily identified unless comfort or other conditions issues arise, they typically go unresolved. In cases where a problem has been detected, a solution may be provided that does not resolve the root problem(s). Bathroom and other exhaust fan problems were also a common find, where fans were either non-functional or inadequate.

Audited schools were somewhat more open to going forward with retrofit work, but since the funding offered through this project would have only covered a small percentage of the work, none of the schools opted for any large scale retrofits. However, two of the audited schools were willing to carry out more modest retrofit projects an were also willing to provide additional funds to accomplish them.

Problems were encountered in both the audit and retrofit stages of the project. There was significant difficulty to secure initial school cooperation for the conditions audits, even with clear problems present and school personnel aware that funds might be available to help pay for retrofits. Once a retrofit was underway, it was often very difficult to get timely follow-through cooperation from the schools. Also, in two cases, although clear retrofit specifications were provided, the specifications were modified by the school or contractor. Had these modifications actually been implemented, they would have resulted in a less effective retrofit in one case and an ineffective retrofit in the other case.

While the above problems limited the effectiveness of the audits and retrofits, and the ability to confirm benefits, post-retrofit monitoring and re-surveying did indicate that there was still some limited success realized in several schools, and several conclusions can be made:

  • School conditions improvements are possible. The limited results from project retrofits indicate that conditions problems can be successfully diagnosed and solved.
  • Schools must have real incentive(s) to participate.
  • A qualified energy analyst must be paid to supervise all work.
  • Schools in humid climates need to be designed with separate means of treating outside air.

The results from this project and even the lack of participation on the part of the schools indicate that without substantial funding being made available for school maintenance, widespread significant improvements will not be realized. Even beyond basic maintenance funding, there is a matter of priorities for schools. School boards and administrators need to prioritize the health and welfare of the students and that in turn requires better maintenance of school facilities. Education departments may need to provide energy/air quality specialists with significant authority in order to ensure acceptable comfort conditions for school children.

There has been a concerted effort across the country to assure that students are meeting learning objectives through standardized tests as early as elementary school. Quality building design, construction, operation, maintenance and continuing commissioning is essential if we want those students to have a healthy learning environment. States need to work on continuing education efforts for school facility managers and inspection programs/goal setting that creates incentives for school administrators to create and maintain excellent buildings. The alternative will likely be an escalation of lawsuits.