High school seniors and their parents weigh multiple factors, when choosing a college or university. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of one factor has shown a marked increase. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is now among the top-three aspects that an applicant and their parents would consider, when choosing a college, according to one survey.
Growing awareness of IAQ
Growing awareness of IAQ presents an opportunity, as the HVAC industry seeks to serve the higher education market. If air quality is a deal breaker for new students, the opportunity is that much more urgent.
A recent survey by professional services firm, JLL confirms that health and safety is at the top-of-mind for parents, and their high school seniors. Some 48% of surveyed parents ranked campus cleanliness and indoor air quality among the top-three most important factors, when choosing a college or university.
Campus cleanliness and indoor air quality
Also, a total of 84% of parents rank cleanliness and indoor air quality as either ‘important’ or ‘somewhat important’. Campus cleanliness and indoor air quality (IAQ) ranked behind ‘quality of academics’ in the top spot and ‘affordability’ in the second position.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that health and IAQ concerns would have even been mentioned in such a survey
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that health and IAQ concerns would have even been mentioned in such a survey. The high ranking of the issue in the current survey reflects heightened health concerns, brought on by the pandemic. In fact, 42 percent of parents noted in the survey that their sentiment toward campus cleanliness and indoor air quality increased, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students and staff on campus will continue to demand transparency and the highest standards around cleanliness, and air quality,” said Ron Gregory, Executive Vice President North America, JLL Higher Education.
Environmental sustainability has also emerged as a factor in student recruitment. Some 21% of parents have become more interested in an institution’s commitment to sustainability, during the pandemic.
Poor ventilation systems became a big concern, as COVID-19 virus spreads through educational institutions and other facilities. HVAC has gained a higher profile, as a factor that can help to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Retrofits can make the difference
In the HVAC market, newer systems tend to be more environmentally sustainable and can ensure compliance with the latest regulatory requirements. However, even retrofits can make a difference, especially ‘deep retrofits’ that can address concerns about circulating outside air, increasing humidity and improving filtration systems, as older buildings seek to become greener.
Broadly speaking, poor IAQ can negatively affect the health and learning of students of any age
Broadly speaking, poor IAQ can negatively affect the health and learning of students of any age. The presence of mold, for example, can increase risks of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Students in well-ventilated classrooms have been shown to achieve higher scores on standardized testing. Greater concern about IAQ and the risks of COVID-19 virus spread have combined to provide new business for HVAC companies that offer useful tools, in order to increase ventilation and even kill germs.
Importance of preventative maintenance
Keeping campuses clean also impacts a family’s perception of a campus. Some 86% of parents rank the ‘look and feel’ of a campus, as either ‘important’ or ‘somewhat important’. Also, 88% of parents say the physical condition of buildings is either ‘important’ or ‘somewhat important’. As a component of a campus’s physical presence, HVAC systems are part of the solution, when seeking to ensure a campus is seen as modern and appealing.
Preventative maintenance is also a factor, in HVAC as well as generally speaking. “Savings generated from preventative maintenance can go back into facilities upkeep, creating an overall better, cleaner and more modern experience for students,” said Kevin Waver, President of JLL Public Institutions at JLL.