Improving Indoor Air Quality in California Schools

CAL SMACNA contractors joined with SMART Locals 104, 105 and 206 and other air quality experts in support of a “School Ventilation & Efficiency Verification ” proposal that will focus on the importance of healthy indoor air quality and proper ventilation in California classrooms.

Recent studies published by Lawrence Berkeley Labs and UC Davis reveal that a significant number of California’s K-12 classrooms do not have properly operating ventilation systems and an adequate supply of fresh air.  These studies show that inadequate ventilation in schools significantly reduces test scores and the ability to learn, and affects student and teacher health leading to more sick days and contributing to respiratory illness.  CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO STUDY.  

“Poor classroom ventilation is a concern in normal times but it is even more concerning in a COVID-19 pandemic where contagion is spread by airborne aerosols” said  Duane Davies, President of CAL SMACNA.  He continued “in addition to following all CDC guidelines we should be doing everything we can to ensure proper ventilation and a reliable supply of fresh air in all of our K-12 classrooms.”  

For these reasons, CAL SMACNA and SMART support the urgent implementation of a statewide program to immediately: 1) ASSESS; 2) REPAIR; and 3) MONITOR classroom ventilation systems to better protect our state’s students, teachers and their families. CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO PROPOSAL.

This proposal is being jointly advanced to the attention of Governor Newsom, the State Legislature, the California Department of Education.  Supporters also include the UC Davis’ Western Cooling Efficiency Center and the National Energy Management Institute.


The UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) has put together an educational and informational website providing information and resources for improving air quality in California schools.

HVAC systems provide necessary mechanical ventilation to classrooms. Students and teachers occupying energy efficient school buildings with sealed building envelopes rely upon properly operating ventilation systems for fresh air.  Ventilation helps remove the build-up of indoor air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, including formaldehyde, which can off-gas from building materials, finishes, and furniture. There is also increasing evidence that CO2 exhaled by building occupants is an indoor pollutant that can affect cognitive performance. This is particularly important in classrooms, where lots of people gather in a small space built and designed for energy efficiency.

After thorough research by Lawrence Berkeley Labs and UC Davis, the WCEC recommend the following actions to improve ventilation rates in classrooms:

  • Complete commissioning and acceptance testing of new HVAC systems as required by Title 24.
  • Run HVAC fans when classrooms are occupied to bring in fresh air.
  • Replace filters 2-3 times per school year.
  • Monitor classroom CO2 concentrations. Thermostats with CO2 sensors and stand-alone sensors are widely available.
  • Test ventilation rates in existing HVAC systems and make corrections when needed.

The WCEC website also includes information on the white paper on Proposed Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification/Repair Program for School Reopening. The white paper presents a proposal that would prepare schools for reopening during the COVID-19 crisis.

To view more information, news coverage regarding this issue, and additional resources visit their website HERE.

If you are interested in receiving more information on classroom IAQ or otherwise helping our efforts to improve schools please send your contact information toEmily Mills at