Photo 169890140 © Martina Hanakova |
National Comfort Institute
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
Photo 280436684 © Cameron Hughes |
Manhattan darkened by smoke from Canadian wildfires.
A classroom following installation.

School Improves Indoor Air Quality and Lighting

March 28, 2023
Allergy and asthma triggers were reduced and light levels in the spaces more than doubled from 116 to 253 lux.

To ascertain the quality of its indoor environmental quality (IEQ), the Panther Valley Elementary School in Nesquehoning, PA recently placed AWAIR indoor environmental sensors throughout the school. The sensors measure seven key IEQ factors: temperature, humidity, CO2, volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter (PM2.5), noise, and light.

During initial monitoring, the overall indoor environmental AWAIR scores moved between fair and good, averaging in the low 80’s. Air quality issues identified as primary areas of concern were ventilation rates and light levels. Secondary areas of concern included CO2 thresholds, noise, and thermal comfort levels.

Ceilings Replaced in Classroom, Nurse’s Office

To help address these concerns, the school replaced the ceilings in a 780-square-foot third-grade classroom and a 450-square-foot nurse’s office. Built in the 1980’s, the classroom houses 27-32 students and is in use nearly eight hours a day.

Ultima®high light reflecting ceiling panels from Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions were installed in both spaces. The smooth-textured panels with a non-directional visual are both washable and impact-and-scratch-resistant.

In-Ceiling Air Purification Systems Installed

An in-ceiling Armstrong StrataClean IQ™ Air Filtration System was also installed in the classroom to improve indoor air quality. The system captures and removes 90% of airborne contaminants, allergens, and other particulates using proven MERV 13 filtration.

An internal fan draws air through one side of the grille. The air then moves through a MERV 13 filter and discharges back into the space through the opposite side. One unit can filter the air in a 1,000 square foot space every hour. With the fan running, air in the occupied space is constantly filtered to provide clean, purified air.

Panther Valley Elementary has no, or a limited, HVAC system. As a result, air changes per hour (ACH) in the classroom were only .5 ACH. Following installation of the StrataClean unit, ACH increased to 1.5 ACH. Increasing ACH helps reduce exposure to airborne contaminants. In addition, particulate matter and CO2 levels decreased.

In-Ceiling UV System Installed in Nurse’s Office

In addition, an in-ceiling Armstrong VidaShield UV24™ air purification system was installed in the nurse’s office. This unit operates by continuously drawing air into aself-contained chamber in the ceiling plenum where the air is treated safely with ultraviolet light air-cleaning technology.  The cleaner, disinfected air then circulates
back into the room reducing occupant exposure to viruses and bacteria.

Third party testing shows this system neutralizes 97 percent of infectious pathogens on the first pass of air through the system. This contributes to healthier spaces by minimizing allergy and asthma triggers and by reducing the level of other infectious pathogens in the air and the settling of those pathogens onto room surfaces.

Improved Lighting and Acoustics

The new ceiling panels provided improved lighting as well. Estimated light reflectance value of the existing ceiling was in the 40 – 60 range, while the Ultima ceiling panels have a light reflectance of 88.

By upgrading to Ultima ceiling tile and new LED light fixtures, light levels in the spaces more than doubled from 116 to 253 lux. Improved light reflectance brightens spaces, maximizes light, and enhances visual comfort by reducing eye strain and glare. The acoustic environment also improved.