1. No oil fired heating system. Heating and cooling using water heat pump system. No fossil fuels used on site, except a few Bunsen burners. (Combustion systems in existing schools cause a lot of health problems.)
2. The Chem lab has a special ventilation system for use with Bunsen burners and in case of chemical spills.
3. Gym floor finished months early. This is the first time this has been achieved in Nova Scotia (possibly in Canada). Even if our choice of a water based finish wasn't used, a lower emission alkyd-based one was used. Off gassing for 8 weeks before occupancy made a difference too.
4. Ventilation system exceeds American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) Guidelines. Goal: Cleaner air indoors than outdoors (once the off gassing is complete). Huge filter system plus 100% fresh air (unrecycled air).
5. Huge effort went into product selection for health, including concrete additives, foundation form-release products, glues, caulks, wall & floor finishes. Window trim used no glues and was finished off site and then installed. (However, a paint containing Teflon, which when burned apparently produces one of the most toxic chemicals known to man, was used and would not have been a preference for the healthy school agenda.)
6. New low-emission finishes for desks & furniture from the furniture supplier.
7. Ductwork was not only required to be delivered varsol/oil free and stored clean on site, but ducts were well sealed daily during construction to keep dirt out, and the system was left off until final cleanup was finished.
8. Careful attention to such things as orientation of air intakes to avoid sucking used or polluted air into the school.
9. Huge attention to multiple site design issues , including site drainage and rational analysis of safety aspects of building entrance for those arriving by various means.
10. Parking lots downwind (prevailing winds) and 50 ft from building.
11. Copy rooms isolated & with separate ventilation.
12. Ventilated halls. Cleans out "dead", used air in halls, plus locker contents can be concentrated sources of indoor air pollutants.
13. New locker design has them off the floor for ease of cleaning and to prevent build-up of mold-producing dirt under them over time.
14. Openable windows, screens, and all classrooms have windows except drama (stage area).
15. Clear glazing in windows. Window orientation and shading provides pleasant brightness and prevents overheating during hot afternoons. Broad spectrum fluorescent lighting assists natural light for health, performance and comfort.
16. No pressure treated wood (PTW) anywhere it could come in contact with skin. Also, care in disposal of PTW sawdust and other toxic materials such as solvents.
17. Sealing of all cut edges of fibreboard cabinetry to prevent off gassing of formaldehyde and other emissions.
18. Minimal use of fabrics and other fleecy materials, including carpeting.
19. There are no plastic garbage cans throughout, and the kitchen equipment is mostly stainless steel. Pranksters occasionally set fires in garbage cans. Several teachers in Nova Scotia breathed toxic fumes from this in the past year alone.
20. Special entryway mat system to clean off boots & shoes.
21. Easy access for maintenance and cleaning. In this school, maintenance was given priority.
22. Gym floor is easy on the eyes - no visual "noise".
23. Heavy ceiling tiles that minimize particle abrasion.
24. Whiteboards & electronic boards plus low-emission corkboards.
25. Controls for electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure from computers in the computer rooms (the other classrooms with rows of computers don't rank as well), and wiring and electrical areas located to minimize EMF exposure to occupants.
26. Well designed recycling system, including a recycling room with floor drain for hosing down.
27. No indoor plants or water fountains (a mold issue).
28. No cabinets under sinks and no gyproc in or below washrooms (leak and mold issue).
29. New design for water-resistant baseboards.
30. An extensive radon system was installed, including mechanical exhaust of foundation.
31. Lead and plastic-free water coolers.
32. Computers and other electrical equipment were plugged in, turned on and off gassed for several weeks.
33. Care taken not to allow sawdust or garbage to fall between walls or into block walls. (One new school had to have a wall dismantled because of odours from this.)
34. No pesticides were used during landscaping.
35. Least toxic cleaning materials were used.
36. The on-site inspector and construction heads were trained in healthy school construction issues. They in turn explained the goals to workers. For example, during construction, wet or damaged or unspecified materials were turned away, and no open-flamed heaters used.
37. Training of building operators. Training of the maintenance personnel was video taped for future use, for example, for refreshment sessions or if there is staff turnover.
38. Archive of design drawings & operations information in three locations Department, board, and school. Important for maintenance and for reference so system can be altered easily in future renovations.
39. An extensive off gassing "flush-out" period of several weeks, with cabinets open, furniture and equipment off gassing with ventilation on 24 hours.
40. Extensive pre-occupancy testing and evaluation using residential rather than industry standards for indoor air quality.
(photo: Mainland Common)
Even more achievements could be listed, including subcategories of many of the items. Our request for such basic things as "a roof that does not leak" and "windows that do not leak" were taken very seriously. The project demonstrated that it is not more expensive to build a healthy school - it came in UNDER budget! Time will tell the success, but a huge amount was accomplished in building a healthier school.
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Healthy School Design and Construction, visit: