Harvard Professors Suggest Schools Use Stimulus Funds to Improve Ventilation and Filtration

In the EEI Newsroom post, “Commissioning Services Can Help Schools Stay Open This Fall,” we provided an overview of a Washington Post opinion by two Harvard professors. Professors Joseph G. Allen and Michael Mina argue that even though Covid-19 cases will likely rise this fall, schools should remain open. They offered two methods to help keep schools open:

  • Daily rapid testing – These tests can determine who is infectious in one minute, resulting in more effective quarantining and less unnecessary isolation time for students.

  • Ventilation and filtration system upgrades – Building commissioning (Cx) services assess and optimize existing systems. There are multiple, cost-effective ways to provide better ventilation, including updating current systems, maximizing fresh airflow, and using portable air purifiers with HEPA filters.

For the second method the professors suggested, “Schools should use stimulus funds to improve their ventilation and filtration to help reduce airborne transmission of the virus. The first thing to do is understand what their buildings can and can’t do. Hire a good mechanical engineer or commissioning agent to assess and optimize existing systems, like a tuneup for a car.”

“Once schools know what they have, they should prioritize increasing the amount of fresh outdoor air and upgrading filters to MERV 13 or higher to achieve four to six air changes per hour of ‘clean’ air in every classroom. If that’s not possible and if opening windows doesn’t produce enough ventilation (in many cases it does), schools can always use portable air cleaners with HEPA filters. These are a cheap and effective way to get clean air in schools. A rule of thumb is to buy a device with a clean air delivery rate of 350 for every 500 square feet.”

EEI’s Cx experts can help! EEI has over 35 years of experience conducting and customizing facility assessments. Our Facility Health Assessments evaluate HVAC Systems for health and safety risks. We have also been conducting Indoor Air Quality evaluations long before Covid-19 to reduce the spread of diseases and sick building syndrome.

EEI focuses our assessments on a comprehensive understanding of schools’ existing mechanical systems, determining transmission risk level, and providing system improvement recommendations that will reduce transmission risk. Our assessments follow a science-based approach based on the advice of organizations such as ASHRAE, ASHE, IES, OSHA, and the CDC.

For more information on EEI’s Facility Health Assessment services, please contact:



June 24, 2021
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