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Guest Blog: How to Prepare a Focused Plan to Secure Stimulus Funds for Your School

Matt Munter, PE, Executive Vice President, Bureau Veritas
  • Apr 22, 2021
  • 4 minutes

BVNA

This guest blog post is authored by Bureau Veritas.

Having a plan for federal and state funding is usually the first step to securing it.

Of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, $170 billion of it is allocated to educational institutions; $130 billion will be reserved for K-12 and $40 billion for higher education.

These funds are earmarked for specific endeavors in educational facilities with the overall goal of limiting the spread of coronavirus. K-12 schools will be able to use this money to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes to support physical distancing, hire support staff, and purchase supplies needed to protect students and teachers.

The stimulus package outlines these guidelines for higher education institutions:

“The legislation dictates that schools that receive assistance must use a portion of the funds to implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines.”

Where do we go from here?

Understanding the purpose of the stimulus can help educational institutions present their needs so that they are poised for approval. Many schools across the country have remained closed for in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year and some have reopened at reduced capacity. Few opened in full operation, and as a result, most educational facilities and their building systems have spent more than a year running outside of design intent.

Furthermore, schools in the United States are notoriously underfunded, leaving many to make do, defer maintenance and often patch some serious issues. This stimulus package may be a great opportunity for many of these schools.

Get a realistic picture of your facility condition

The first step toward stimulus money is getting a realistic picture of the current facility condition. This can be done a couple of different ways.

CMMS reporting

If the facility’s CMMS is fully operational, the data necessary to prove the building’s need for improvement can be collected with the reports it generates. A CMMS that has a complete inventory of the facility’s equipment and is fully connected to the building systems can provide accurate, real-time information.

Facility assessment

A CMMS that is primarily used as a ticketing system will not be able to provide the level of data needed. In that case, engaging a building systems professional to assess the facility’s condition is the way to go. The facility condition assessment can determine a list of repair and maintenance recommendations. That list can even be prioritized based on stimulus package requirements. Then, when the report/plan is reviewed for approval, the committee sees that the school is in line with the specific objectives.

Compare current operation to recommendations

Once you have a complete picture of the facility, you can compare it to the CDC’s recommendations for building ventilation and distancing, which includes these actions:

  • Increase the introduction of outdoor air:
    • Open outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings to reduce or eliminate HVAC air recirculation. In mild weather, this will not affect thermal comfort or humidity. However, this may be difficult to do in cold, hot, or humid weather, and may require consultation with an experienced HVAC professional.
    • Open windows and doors, when weather conditions allow, to increase outdoor air flow. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., risk of falling, triggering asthma symptoms) to occupants in the building. Even a slightly open window can introduce beneficial outdoor air.
  • Use fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows:
    • To safely achieve this, fan placement is important and will vary based on room configuration. Avoid placing fans in a way that could potentially cause contaminated air to flow directly from one person to another (see FAQ below on indoor use of fans).
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality for the current occupancy level for each space.
  • Rebalance or adjust HVAC systems to increase total airflow to occupied spaces when possible.
  • Turn off any demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature during occupied hours. In homes and buildings where the HVAC fan operation can be controlled at the thermostat, set the fan to the “on” position instead of “auto,” which will operate the fan continuously, even when heating or air-conditioning is not required.
  • Improve central air filtration:
    • Increase air filtration external icon to as high as possible without significantly reducing design airflow. Increased filtration efficiency is especially helpful when enhanced outdoor air delivery options are limited.
    • Make sure air filters are properly sized and within their recommended service life.
    • Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate filter fit and minimize air that flows around, instead of through, the filter.
  • Ensure restroom exhaust fans are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied.
  • Inspect and maintain exhaust ventilation systems in areas such as kitchens, cooking areas, etc. Operate these systems any time these spaces are occupied. Consider operating them even when the specific space is not occupied, to increase overall ventilation within the occupied building.
  • Consider portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning (especially in higher risk areas such as a nurse’s office or areas frequently inhabited by people with a higher likelihood of having COVID-19 and/or an increased risk of getting COVID-19).
  • Generate clean-to-less-clean air movement by evaluating and repositioning as necessary, the supply louvers, exhaust air grilles and/or damper settings.
  • Consider using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplemental treatment to inactivate SARS-CoV-2, especially if options for increasing room ventilation and filtration are limited.
  • In non-residential settings, consider running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after the building is occupied.

In addition to ventilation, schools should also consider physical distancing expectations. Many schools do not have sufficient space to comply with federal and state reopening guidelines. Creating more space for students and additional classes, not only places a significant burden on staffing needs, but on the building as well. Adding more, larger classrooms can help improve physical distancing and thereby reduce coronavirus transmission, but few if any schools have funding available for that type of capital improvement.

Here are some projects to consider when applying for stimulus package funds:

  • Installing larger capacity HVAC equipment – The capacity for which a facility’s mechanical system can introduce outside air into a space is reliant on the size of the unit. In addition, most equipment is purchased and installed based on a projected capacity for 5-10 years. Schools that have grown or plan to expand should consider the additional demand that will place on the mechanical system. If the school’s equipment is reaching the end of its useful life, this may be a project worth including in the proposal.
  • In addition to increased air access, consider upgrade of filtration, bipolar ionization and UVC treatments.
  • Installation of operable windows to assist in fresh air exchange as well as energy efficiency.
  • Bundled projects: rooftop unit replacements in conjunction with roof replacement projects.
  • Address deferred maintenance that existed before the pandemic.
  • Consider retro-commissioning to re-calibrate HVAC equipment throughout your facility.
  • Get a facility condition assessment to identify and prioritize other possible projects.

Focusing the school’s request for funding on these requirements show that the school is working toward improving those factors considered to be the greatest contributors to the spread of coronavirus.

Preparing for stimulus money distribution

The situation is different, but the story is the same. What used to be justifying the need for federal and state funding based on energy efficiency is now based on slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Master plans and improvement plans focused on healthier air standards and better hygiene practices are poised for success with funding review committees.

Just like those that focused on energy efficiency used to be. While there is no guarantee, it is the clear precedent.

As schools are preparing for the impending release of stimulus funding and cope with the demands of opening as quickly and as safely as possible, Bureau Veritas and DudecSolutions can help.

It is imperative that schools have a well-thought-through plan when applying to receive stimulus funding. Our facility experts can help schools compare their building’s current system and performance data points with the recommendations of the CDC, federal and state authorities. That way, when review committees are assessing plans for improvements, they will be better positioned for approval.

Reach out to get more information on working with Bureau Veritas and Dude Solutions to maximize your stimulus funding.

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