Private school uses anti-microbial ductwork to improve indoor air quality

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. - Ductwork designed to prevent the growth of mold and other bacteria will move air through a new middle school now under construction at Woodward Academy, a 104-year-old private institution near Atlanta.

The new $16.5 million middle school is part of an ambitious 12-year, $28.8 million renovation plan that when completed will have changed the entire campus. An Atlanta-based architecture firm, Perkins & Will, is designing the new buildings and grounds.

The middle-school project is the largest of the Woodward Academy renovations. In addition to a new 3-story classroom building, the five-acre campus will eventually include a stand-alone cafeteria and pupil lounge and a dedicated art building to better serve its 550 seventh- and eighth-grade students. According to school officials, design plans for the middle school were driven by a pupil-focused goal: Create a cleaner school.

The 80,000-square-foot main building will include 48 classrooms. It needed to be outfitted with the latest hygienic technologies, said Daniel Bedard, Woodward Academy's construction manager.

"Sustainable-design concepts were a driving force behind material specification," Bedard said. "From the windows and roofing materials on the outside to the energy-management system and air-handling system on the inside, we evaluated every detail with our goal in mind."

High on efficiency, low on microbes

Bedard helped create a high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Each classroom will be equipped with individual climate controls that rely on geothermal technology. Geothermal heat pumps use the stable temperatures below the Earth's surface to more efficiently heat and cool a building. In the winter, the middle school's system will pull heat from the ground to warm up pupils. And during Atlanta's famously hot and sticky summers, the system will remove hot air from the school and release it into the ground.

The middle school is also using 40,000 pounds of rectangular, anti-microbial-coated steel ductwork in its main building. Anti-microbial-coated steel ductwork curbs the growth of mildew, mold and other microbes, according to its makers.

Some pupils suffer from headaches, dizziness and other mysterious illnesses some experts blame on poor indoor air quality from HVAC systems. Some research has shown that ductwork covered with materials designed to kill mold, bacteria and other irritants may help decrease this so-called sick-building syndrome.

"We read about the use of anti-microbial-coated steel and realized it would help us address several issues, including cleanliness and curbing microbe growth on the HVAC system," said Bedard. "After receiving product information, we visited a trade show to ask follow-up questions."

Academy officials sent out for bids on ductwork with and without mold-killing coatings. Despite a higher cost, they decided to use to the anti-microbial ductwork.

Cost difference ‘negligible'`

"We considered the cost difference to be negligible when compared to the benefits it will bring the school," said Barbara Egan, the academy's vice president of finance and administration.

Jonesboro-Ga.-based BHW Sheet Metal Co. won the bid to manufacture and install the ductwork for Woodward Academy.

For sheet-metal contractors, making and installing anti-microbial-coated ductwork is much the same as fabricating regular duct.

"We're using 24-gauge, hot-dipped galvanized carbon steel to manufacture the rectangular ductwork. No new tools, equipment or processes are required to make and install anti-microbial-coated ductwork," said BHW President Larry McLain.

BHW purchased AgION anti-microbial-coated steel from N.B. Handy Co. to make the ductwork.

The main middle-school building was completed last year. Existing buildings are being razed to make room for the cafeteria and arts building. Once it's completed, Woodward Academy President Harry C. Payne, Ph.D., said the new campus will be more than a school.

"The new middle school is designed to blend with the surrounding community," Payne said. "It is more of a neighborhood, designed to impart a special feel in a special world for its students. The campus will have a significant impact on thousands of children for many years to come."

Woodward Academy was founded as Georgia Military Academy in 1900. After 64 years as a boarding school for boys, girls were first allowed to enroll in 1964. The military program was dropped in 1966, when the school became known as Woodward Academy. The boarding school was closed in 1993.

Today the school has almost 2,800 pupils from throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area.

(This article was supplied by AK Coatings.)