Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign Focuses on Indoor Air Quality


Improving a school’s energy performance can affect more than utility bills – it also offers the potential to improve indoor air quality and learning outcomes, making classrooms healthier for students and staff. (Credit: iStock/SDI Productions)

-By Christina Nunez

Improving the energy performance of a school can affect more than utility bills – it can also improve indoor air quality and learning outcomes, making classrooms healthier for students and staff. A new campaign Effective and healthy schoolswill provide practical advice on ventilation upgrades that can increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and improve the air in K-12 schools nationwide.

Given the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on preventative measures to support in-person learning, many schools are looking for ways to improve ventilation, filtration, and indoor air quality. Specifically, US rescue plan education funds, aimed at improving ventilation in schools to prevent COVID-19, are available to help schools make operational changes as well as longer-term investments, such as system upgrades heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is a key facilitator in getting school districts to sign up and participate in the Department of Energy’s new campaign to improve energy efficiency and the air our students, faculty, and staff breathe in schools nationwide.

Participating schools receive practical advice on HVAC solutions and other technologies that can improve energy performance and indoor air quality. In particular, the campaign encourages schools serving low-income student populations to participate. The DOE is leading the campaign with technical support from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), one of 17 national laboratories nationwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education are organizing campaign partners.

Research on indoor air quality in schools shows direct effects on students and teachers,” said Rengie Chan, a Berkeley Lab researcher leading the campaign. “We know that well-ventilated classrooms combined with high-efficiency filtration can improve student performance and reduce the number of reports of respiratory symptoms among occupants.”

Joining the campaign as a participant or supporter is free and only requires the completion of a web form.

An empty primary school classroom with colorful lockers

A new campaign, Efficient and Healthy Schools, aims to provide practical upgrades that can increase energy efficiency, reduce costs and improve the air in K-12 schools nationwide. (Credit: iStock/Mirjana Ristic)

To date, 26 school districts in 16 states have joined or are ready to join the campaign, representing more than 1.5 million students in 2,600 individual schools. Among these school districts, the campaign offers recognition in four areas: effective HVAC technologies, inspection and maintenance, ongoing monitoring and analysis, and the team approach to supporting strategic investments. Today, the campaign announced its first round of recognition from six school districts for their best efforts in one or more areas:

  • Boulder Valley School District, CO
  • Charleston County School District, South Carolina
  • Columbia, Missouri Public Schools
  • Davis School District, UT
  • Schools in Greenville County, South Carolina
  • Newark, NJ School Board

“At a time of unprecedented environmental and social challenges, OUSD believes that collaboration and partnership are fundamental to working to deliver sustainable solutions,” said Brendan Havenar-Daughton, former Chief Energy and sustainability for OUSD. “OUSD is committed to the “Efficient and Healthy Schools” campaign to build relationships, share knowledge, and generate momentum toward increased investment in clean and healthy infrastructure for K-12 California students .”

“We look forward to working hand-in-hand with indoor air quality experts, energy efficiency scientists, climate leaders and other K-12 partners to find cost-effective and meaningful solutions to some of our most pressing maintenance challenges. The Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign has the potential to highlight the rich value proposition of improving IAQ while decarbonizing our building systems,” said Havenar-Daughton.

The campaign provides recognition for exemplary school efforts. These can include energy efficiency and indoor air quality improvements through operation and maintenance, HVAC upgrades and replacements, ongoing monitoring and data analytics, and supporting a culture for efficient and healthy school buildings. Berkeley Lab researchers will collect information from school districts to document their efforts and provide technical assistance to quantify the benefits of their investments.

“By promoting the Efficient and Healthy Schools program, we can link indoor air quality and energy efficiency and reward schools for the continuous work of maintaining the safety, health and efficiency of their buildings, which is often overlooked,” said Heather Feigum, Assistant Facilities Manager. management of the Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10, which supports school districts in Wisconsin.

Berkeley Lab’s Indoor Air Quality Group is recognized as one of the best in the nation and is the leader in indoor air quality for the nation’s 17 National Laboratories.

To learn more about the Effective and Healthy Schools campaign and how to get involved as a participant or supporter, visit the website: efficienthealthyschools.lbl.gov.


Founded in 1931 on the belief that the greatest scientific challenges are best met by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been awarded 14 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers are developing sustainable energy and environmental solutions, creating useful new materials, pushing the boundaries of computing, and probing the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists around the world rely on the laboratory’s facilities for their own scientific discovery. Berkeley Lab is a multi-program national laboratory, operated by the University of California for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The DOE’s Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.


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