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How the Humble Checklist Can Improve School Indoor Air Quality

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image: Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program [ ]

*How the Humble Checklist Can Improve School Indoor Air Quality*

By Christine G. Crocker, Executive Director, Maine Indoor Air Quality Council and
Ellen Tohn, Tohn Environmental Strategies, Massachusetts

*We all use checklists!* Shopping lists, to-do lists, wish listschecklists are a simple tool used every day to help us both organize and remember important items and tasks.

Checklists are used in so many professions and situations that we tend to overlook their value in helping us do a better job, no matter what that job entails.

*School facilities directors, architects, engineers, contractors and others responsible for creating and sustaining healthy school environments all can benefitfrom the use of checklists to protect and improve school indoor air quality (IAQ).*

“The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported [ ] that in hospital operating rooms around the country, checklists now are helping doctors reduce patient mortality in crisis events and cut the length of patient hospitalizations in half.”

*How are checklists useful?*

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published “Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades.” This comprehensive guidance provides strategies to protect and improve IAQ when undertaking a school renovation or energy upgrade. The document is available to download [ ] for free from EPAs website.

Sample selection of a checklist created by the Interactive IAQ Planner.

The guidance contains 130 pages of valuable content and detailed specifications, but *its most practical feature is a MS-Excel workbook that allows users to create customized project checklists in just 5 minutes.*

The Interactive Air Quality Planner is a one-page, macro-enabled Excel file that allows users to choose from a variety project types, such as HVAC, lighting upgrades or painting, to create a comprehensive, project scopespecific checklist of actions to protect IAQ. The customized checklists are color-coded to show both minimum actions (steps that should always be taken for that type of project) and expanded actions (additional steps to improve IAQ). Users also can create a tab of comprehensive resources that both link to the full Energy Savings Plus Health Guide or provide specific references to external standards, such as those published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association; and other organizations.

*Why is this so important?*

Studies show that the quality of the school indoor environment affects student health, academic performance and, in some instances, teacher attendance. *A comprehensive approach to facility renovations and energy upgrades that considers the benefits of energy efficiency improvements, as well as the potential for improving the indoor environment, can*

* Save school districts money by reducing operating expenses
* Improve student academic performance
* Increase staff productivity and reduce staff absences
* Improve the health of those working in the building

“Checklists are an important safeguard for A/E professionals, and the cost savings of avoiding rework or repair is significantespecially for indoor air quality issues. Our team successfully used the Interactive Air Quality Planner to double-check our activity on multiple recent public school projects.
Michael Johanning, AIA, WBRC Architects-Engineers, Portland, Maine”

*Does using a checklist really work?*

The Maine Indoor Air Quality Council recently completed a 2-year project for EPA to pilot test the Interactive Air Quality Planner in school districts in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Eight school districts used the Interactive Air Quality Planner in conjunction with their renovation projects and provided their feedback.

*What the Council Discovered*

*The Interactive Air Quality Planner is extremely easy to use.*

“All project participants reported that it was easy to find, download, save and use the Planner to create customized checklists specific to their projects.”

*The checklists helped users minimize mistakes.*

“All project participants thought the checklists generated by the Planner were a valuable summary of the myriad tasks that protect IAQ during their schools renovation. The checklists allowed users to double-check their practices and procedures and minimized the likelihood of critical protections being overlooked.”

*The Planner identified things users had not previously considered during project planning.*

“The Planner helped all project participants to identify processes, procedures and specific actions that were then added to the specifications and/or scope of their renovations.”

*All users reported that they would use the Planner again.*

“All project participants envisioned at least one scenario in which they would use the Planner again.”

*Schools Can Use the Planner in a Variety of Ways*

Alyce Swan, Facilities Director for the Kennebunk School System in Maine, brainstormed numerous ways her district could use the Planner:

* Planning while developing projects
* Communications to the facilities committee, parent community and others
* Talking points when engaging in direct discussions with contractors
* Project documentation packages to provide to teachers, superintendents and lawyers
* Onsite checklist on a clipboard for reference during site visits
* To underscore reasons why you ask contractors specific questions
* Prerequisite for contractors to define their work scope
* Tool to get everyone thinking about their actions, especially actions that could affect other people in the building (such as containments)
* Help staff understand IAQ problems and available preventive measures
* Shared protocol throughout the project for all those involved
* To save timenot having to remember what to do or chase people to do itthe checklist format makes it easy to accomplish all necessary tasks.

“This is awesome. I can generate a quality, professional-looking checklist in 60 seconds or less.
Alyce Swan, Facilities Director, Kennebunk School System, Maine”


We are all busy in our day-to-day duties, so it is hard to imagine adding another step or practice to our work. But, remember the operating room lessonchecklists help to avoid mistakes. EPAs Interactive IAQ Planner is one such tool. Take 5 minutes to run the checklist and confirm that your next school project will protect student and teacher health and avoid IAQ issues.

“At first, I was very skeptical that using the Interactive IAQ Planner would be in any way beneficial to my projects. Like many facilities directors, Im really busy. Why would I need another thing to do? Ive been really surprised. It literally takes one minute to do, and it gives me a practical checklist of everything I need to consider. I can use the checklists in so many waysfrom communications with administration and my school community, to working with contractors to make sure theyre on the same page. Ive already run two checklists for 20182019 projects and saved them in my project files. Plus, I found things I hadnt considered before6 months prior to project start! My projects will now have a better chance of success.
Bill Hansen, Windham-Raymond Schools, Maine”

Maine Indoor Air Quality Council IAQ & Energy 2018 Conference

Want to learn the latest, cutting-edge technical information for healthy, energy-efficient indoor environments? Join professionals from the building science, design and construction, and facility operations and management industries to learn all about protecting IAQ in your buildings at the IAQ & Energy 2018 Conference, May 12, 2018. There are two ways to attend: (1) In person in Portland, Maine, or (2) via live-streaming from your home or office.

Visit [ ] to learn more about the conference and register today.

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