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Operations and Maintenance, Part of Indoor Air Quailty Design Tools for Schools


Effective operation and maintenance procedures are fundamentally important to protect the investment in, and performance of, all building systems. Student health and productivity can suffer when building systems fail to operate as designed.

Sub-standard maintenance or incorrect operation of building systems usually results from a combination of factors. First, maintenance budgets are often the first to be reduced or eliminated when money becomes tight. Second, designers and contractors typically provide the building staff minimal or no training about how to operate or maintain the building systems. Finally, schools eventually lose their institutional knowledge of the building systems because of staff turnover and lack of communication.

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Maintenance Plan

An effective maintenance plan should:

  • educate the staff on the value of maintenance, and how a properly functioning facility can help them educate their students;
  • establish a budget for maintenance;
  • describe how to hire qualified staff or contractors to perform tasks;
  • develop a preventative maintenance plan, including schedules for periodic maintenance checks;
  • use a work order system to track work orders, maintenance performed, and costs for each piece of equipment;
  • ensure that the maintenance staff has proper Operation and Maintenance manuals;
  • ensure availability of recommended spare parts in the warehouse;
  • provide training to the maintenance staff.

Obtain, adapt as needed, and implement EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program Action Kit:

Require that an "Owners Manual" be developed and maintained at the school that contains all of the information needed to maintain the school and its equipment. Be sure to include:

  • Information for all Staff on key systems that impact indoor air quality including:
    • Operable Windows
    • Thermostats and Manual Overrides
    • HVAC Equipment, including fume hoods, exhaust Fans, etc.
  • Information for Facility Personnel on operation and maintenance of equipment and products: (Sample Format)
  • Entry Mats
  • Floor Care
  • HVAC Equipment, Zone-by-Zone (Sample format)
  • Radon System
  • Special Housekeeping
  • Equipment manuals for all equipment that has an influence on IAQ such as, but not limited to: air handling units, energy recovery ventilators, radon system components, exhaust kits for large copiers.
  • Product Instructions for products that have an influence on IAQ, including but not limited to: entry mats, floor care, cleaning of dry erase boards.
  • Training Materials for school staff.
  • Maintenance Schedules.
  • Contact information for key members of the design and construction team that dealt with features affecting IAQ, and for representatives of the equipment and products noted in this manual.

Ensure that "as-built" blueprints and/or drawings are provided and maintained as building modifications occur. An up-to-date set of "as-built" drawings are extremely important for both effective operations and maintenance as well as for diagnosing any problems that may arise in the future. Ideally, copies should be available on-site as well as maintained at the district level.

Provide training to school staff appropriate to their roles. Consider utilizing those involved in the design and construction of the building, such as:

  • Architect: The person who has overall responsibility for incorporating the IAQ actions into the design and construction of the school
  • Engineer: The person who designed the HVAC system for the school
  • Builder: The general contractor who was most responsible for ensuring that the IAQ construction actions were properly implemented
  • Equipment Supplier Representatives: of the HVAC equipment that has significant impacts on ventilation and IAQ
  • School Representative: The person within the school system who was most responsible for ensuring that the IAQ actions were properly implemented

Sample Training Format

Establish and implement an Integrated Pest Management plan. See Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools.

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References and Resources

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Sample Format for Information on Equipment and/or Products

Following is a sample format that can be used to transfer information from the design and construction team to the O&M team regarding special equipment or products that affect IAQ. See below for special instructions regarding zone-by-zone coverage of ventilation equipment.

  Information to be Added by Design Team
Title The title of the unique equipment or product that has an impact on IAQ (e.g., "Ventilation Equipment for Zone 1, West Wing")
Potential Impact on IAQ A short description about how this is important to the quality of air within the school
How Improper Operation affects IAQ Briefly note how improper operation of this item can affect IAQ. (e.g., "If this unit is ever turned off during occupied hours, ventilation will not be provided to this zone of the school.")
How Improper Maintenance affects IAQ Briefly note how improper maintenance of this item can affect IAQ (e.g., "Condensate drain pan is double sloped, and should not allow standing water, therefore algaecides should not be used.")
Precautions Note any special precautions that must be taken during operation or maintenance to ensure proper safety. Consider also adding: "Caution: these materials are not intended to provide general instruction on basic health and safety procedures such as avoiding injury from falls, electrocution, or moving parts. Operations and maintenance personnel must be properly trained in these matters as appropriate to their needs."
Tools Needed Note any special tools needed to operate or maintain this item (e.g., "To ensure that you are receiving the minimum amount of outdoor air for proper ventilation, an airflow capture hood or pitot tube must be used to measure the airflow.")
Materials Needed Note any special materials needed to operate or maintain this item. For example, if a unique floor material was chosen for the school because proper maintenance of the floor does not require maintenance products such as cleaners, strippers, or waxes that may cause poor IAQ, then provide details on the maintenance products, and how they can be purchased.
Operation Instructions Specific to IAQ Provide details on how this item should be properly operated to ensure good IAQ (e.g., "This unit must be operating any time this zone is occupied. The on/off control is . . .")
Maintenance Instructions Specific to IAQ Provide details on how this item should be properly maintained to ensure good IAQ.
Troubleshooting Instructions Specific to IAQ Provide details on how to troubleshoot problems that could be affecting IAQ.
Locations within the School Note the locations of this item either with text, or attach a map to the form. A basic floor plan, such as a typical fire escape plan on standard letter-size paper, is usually sufficient. See the information following this table for special maps on ventilation system components.
For More Information Add contact information for companies and people who would be helpful in answering questions on this item. Add any pertinent website addresses.

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Sample Format for Documenting HVAC Systems

Proper operation and maintenance of HVAC systems is probably one of the most misunderstood issues and greatest problems regarding good indoor air quality in schools. A separate form should be completed for each HVAC zone* in the school. Also, a simple floor plan map of the school should divide all occupied areas of the school into zones, and each zone should be numbered and or named. A separate floor plan map should be made for each zone, and the locations of the following items should be noted on each map: Outdoor air intake(s); Air handling units that carry ventilation air; Energy recovery ventilation units (if separate from other air handlers); and Exhaust fan(s) or passive relief vents.

Zone* Name or Number:
OA Volume Minimum amount of outdoor air, in CFM, that is supplied to the zone when it is occupied
Occupancy Number of people that are expected to occupy the zone, by design
Air Distribution The form of air distribution within the zone, such as displacement ventilation or mixed air. Also, the general location of how air enters the room(s), such as at ceiling, wall, or floor, and where air exits the room(s).
Air Filters The types and dust-spot efficiencies of the air filters in this equipment
Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers The types of humidifiers or dehumidifiers that are installed in this zone, and the capacity per hour
Inspection Ports Describe the intent of any inspection ports, and note their location on the map
Energy Recovery Briefly describe the type of ERV, and note the location on the map
Exhaust Fans List the amount of exhaust in CFM that pertains to this zone, and note the location of the fan and any manual switches that control the fan
Supply Temperature The seasonal supply air temperatures as it enters the occupied space(s)
Manual Controls Describe any manually-activated or manually-resettable switches or controls that can turn the ventilation off
*Definition of Zone: All of the rooms and areas that students or staff occupy and that is served by a single HVAC system
** constitute a single zone. For example, a zone can include all classrooms and the corridor in a wing that is served by a large central air handling unit on the roof or in a mechanical room; or a zone my be as small as a single classroom or office that is served by a unit ventilator located within that area.
**Definition of HVAC System: The HVAC system consists of all of the components (i.e., equipment and duct work) that work together to cool, dehumidify, heat, replenish or recirculate the air within a zone or a space served. Acceptable indoor air quality is achieved by ensuring that the HVAC system controls contaminants by supplying outdoor air to, and exhausting polluted air from, a zone or space to the outdoors.

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Sample Training Format and Content

Ideally the training can be divided into two parts as noted below, and generally completed in about half a day. The second part can immediately follow the first part after a short break. The break will allow the presenters to prepare for the second part, and permit any remaining questions from the first part to be answered.

Keep the training content focused tightly on what they need to know to ensure the school is properly operated and maintained for the purpose of good indoor air quality. Generally, a short introduction as to how the O&M action affects IAQ, followed by a clear set of details on how to properly perform this O&M action, is sufficient. Since IAQ is a relatively new issue, the overall goal is to provide quality information that will help prevent senseless O&M errors from occurring, without providing so much information covering every possible IAQ problem that the trainees become confused or overloaded. For typical items that should be covered in the training, see the items listed in the O&M Manual content page

The first part of the training may include more than 100 trainees, whereas the specialized second part will probably include less than 10. From the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, make copies of the IAQ Backgrounder for all attendees and an appropriate number of the eight Checklists to use as handouts during the training.

Title - Your Role in Assuring Good Indoor Air Quality

For All School Personnel

Time 65 minutes

Learning objectives - To understand:

  • What is indoor air quality (IAQ)?
  • Why it is important to schools?
  • Special IAQ features of this school
  • Typical operation and maintenance problems affecting IAQ
  • Your role in assuring a healthy and high-performance learning environment
Class Name Class Length
Introductions and Overview 3 minutes
What is indoor air quality? 7 minutes
Why indoor air quality is important to schools? 5 minutes
Taking Action video (from the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit) 15 minutes
Special IAQ design features of this school 10 minutes
Typical O&M problems in schools 5 minutes
Introduction to the Tools for SchoolsAction Kit 5 minutes
Overview of individual roles (see Checklists) 5 minutes
Handouts and Q&As 9 minutes
Closing comment and call to action 1 minutes
Total minimum time 65 minutes

Title - Facility Operators and Good Indoor Air Quality

For School janitors, custodians, and HVAC technicians

Time: 3 1/2 hours minimum

Learning objectives - To understand:

  • How ventilation works in this school
  • How to operate and maintain your HVAC equipment and systems
  • How to use the O&M Manual
  • How to operate and maintain special IAQ features in this school
  • Your role in assuring a healthy and high-performance learning environment
Class Name Class Length
Introductions and overview 5 minutes
Introduction to Ventilation 5 minutes
IAQ Basics 15 minutes
Types of air handling units in this school 5 minutes
Energy and moisture control 5 minutes
Ventilation Basics video (from the IAQ Tools for Schools Kit) 15 minutes
Tools for SchoolsVentilation Checklist 10 minutes
Overview of alarms and control settings 10 minutes
Your role in identifying and resolving problems 3 minutes
Introduction to the O&M Manual 5 minutes
Review of actions in the O&M Manual 20 minutes
Break or lunch  
Hands-on demonstrations 90 minutes
Qs & As 10 minutes
Closing comments and call to action 2 minutes
Total minimum time 3 1/2 hours

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