Healthy Schools

The Layered Approach

How technology can improve school air quality and student performance

By Lewis Hofmann, MD, FAAFP

Recently, a wave of pollutants has swept across the United States, shuttering schools and stalling our students’ education. With research showing that air quality has a direct effect on student attendance and performance, the recent rise in absenteeism and drop in student performance highlights the need for schools to purify their air so they can continue focusing on their mission. 

Clean air isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, schools can protect their students and staff at an affordable price. With so many entry points for threats to student and staff well-being, a single solution can’t cover every hole. Adopting a layered approach that utilizes multiple technologies allows schools to address the broad range of potential entries for pollutants. Here are a few key components of a multidimensional solution to ensure the highest air quality for your school.

Layer 1: Needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI)
NPBI harnesses the power of nature to clean the air. Its purpose is twofold: to help HVAC filters clean air and to deactivate airborne pathogens. NPBI technology uses electric voltage to split air molecules into positively and negatively charged atoms known as ions. 

These ions form bonds with particles in the air such as smoke or dust, creating a cluster that is easier for systems to filter out of the air. This process allows filters to more easily remove pollutants from the air, making them more effective and longer-lasting.

Additionally, ions can deactivate viruses upon contact, immediately purifying air and reducing the risks children face. With NPBI technology, students can breathe safely as soon as they walk into school.

NPBI solutions are extremely cost-effective, halving annual energy costs by extending HVAC life expectancy. With little to no maintenance required for up to 10 years, NPBI is an excellent solution for schools looking to improve their air without sinking their budgets.

Layer 2: Sanitizing light
UV light can inactivate viruses and other microbes by causing chemical reactions that change their structure. UV sanitizing light options include UVC lighting and ceiling troffers that complement NPBI by targeting areas with limited airflow or a large number of students in close proximity.

While safe for humans, UVC lighting contains a patented technology that doubles as pathogen deactivators, creating cleaner and safer air for students.

Ceiling troffers pull air in, clean it with UV light and then recirculate it. Troffers improve air quality and airflow, which boosts the learning environment within schools.

Layer 3: Surface cleaning
Toxic cleaners such as bleach are harmful to the environment and to those who perform the cleaning. Electro-Chemical Activated (ECA) water is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic and extremely powerful alternative to traditional cleaners. 

ECA technology generates disinfectants and cleaners by passing ordinary water containing dissolved sodium chloride through an electrolytic cell. In essence, it turns water into a powerful and safe cleaner with a very low chemical load compared to most industrial cleaners.

ECA technology produces these cleaners on-site, which eliminates freight costs and the associated carbon emissions while maintaining high safety and efficiency standards. ECA cleaners are better for students, the environment, janitorial staff and the school itself. 

Layer 4: Sensors
Since both the threats and solutions to air quality are invisible, sensors fill the key dual role of allowing schools to track their air quality solutions’ effectiveness and to monitor for potential hazards before they become crises. They can be integrated into a school’s building management system for seamless deployment. Sensors are a key component of the layered approach, providing reassurance to every stakeholder in the education system that the school environment is healthy for staff and students.

These four layers offer schools a proven, affordable and effective means of protecting students from pathogens that threaten their ability to learn. Equipping schools with the proper technology is key to improving student attendance and performance, but schools must also communicate with teachers, parents and students about these solutions in order to promote the confidence necessary to share the learning space. Keeping schools safer, parents at ease and students in classrooms is critical to cultivating the next generation of leaders and protecting our future.

Lewis Hofmann, MD, FAAFP,is the Chief Medical Officer for Citadel, a health and safety technology systems integrator that provides clean air technology to schools nationwide. Dr. Hoffman previously served as the White House physician for the Vice President and as Director of Vice-Presidential Medical Operations from 2000 to 2009.