Ventilation Improvement Program for Ontario Schools Reaches a Major Milestone

studentsSince the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario schools have definitely had their share of ups and downs. From student cohorts, to online learning, and then back to in-person learning – the last two years have proven to be a roller-coaster of new experiences.

There seems to be a silver lining in all of this chaos with school districts who have invested in Cleaner Air for Schools, a program designed to:

  1. improve ventilation and purification in under ventilated schools, and
  2. Reduce energy and carbon in over ventilated schools, improving health, wellness and performance for teachers, students and staff.
CAFS logo

The Cleaner Air for Schools (CAFS) Program, a collaborative initiative launched in March of 2020 between NERVA Energy, Thomas Cole Inc., Mohawk College and Climate Change Leaders has just reached a significant milestone, serving over 1,000 schools and 550,000 students, teachers and staff.

The program focuses on rehabilitating ductwork infrastructure and sealing ducts from the “inside-out” to virtually eliminate air duct leakage, thus driving more airflow to classrooms and campuses.

person working on ducts

“Duct Leakage is substantial issue that is widely overlooked in large facilities. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning engineers (ASHRAE) estimates that most commercial buildings experience 10-25% air duct leakage. This requires HVAC systems to work harder and longer than required, resulting in suboptimal airflow, higher utility costs and larger carbon footprint.” said Joshua Lewis, a recognized energy advisor and recipient of the International Energy Innovator of the Year award.

The Cleaner Air for Schools program allows participating school boards to significantly increase airflow without the need for costly mechanical upgrades or lengthy building disruptions.


“The return on ventilation for air quality and associated cost avoidance through duct sealing has been a significant value add for our organization. Beyond the short- and long-term benefits of the work related to cleaner air in our schools and better environments for students and staff, I am really interested in next steps that explicitly engage our students as climate change leaders, adaptively. That is, experiential learning in the areas of energy management and conservation, as well as environmental sustainability, will provide the opportunity for student leadership and advocacy… and that is exciting for us,” says Pino Buffone, Director of Education, having completed 24 sites with duct sealing and HVAC optimization. “We look forward to saving energy and reducing our carbon footprint with this technology.”

Tony CupidoMohawk College acts as the Research and Validation partner for the Cleaner Air for Schools program. “This program has been a vital resource for school boards to address mechanical inefficiencies, and underserviced ductwork infrastructure which can lead to suboptimal airflow” said Tony Cupido, Mohawk’s Research Chair, Sustainable Building technologies, adding that “With natural gas prices on the rise and the federal carbon tax in play, we look to use duct sealing as a strategy to reduce energy waste. By optimizing HVAC and applying duct sealing, schools and campuses can expect to reduce energy consumption by 15% and GHG by 25%.

“Nerva Energy has demonstrated some expertise in this field. The results of the Duct Sealing and HVAC Optimization have been increasing airflow in schools – the results speak for themselves“, says Domenic Maniccia, Manager of Facility Services, for the Grand Erie District School Board.  The Board has deployed duct sealing in twenty schools in with an average increase in airflow of 30%.  “Grand Erie is pleased with the improved airflow for occupants at those schools and sees potential benefits for other boards to explore this proven technology”, Added Domenic.

With over 100 projects completed to date, the Cleaner Air for Schools program has provided participating schools with an average 30% increase in airflow, 15% utility cost reduction and a 22% reduction in GHG emissions.

kids“We believe that achieving quantifiable ventilation improvements provides parents, teachers and students with much needed confidence and peace of mind”. Said Rob Hallewick, President of NERVA Energy and co-founder of the Cleaner Air for Schools program.

Tim Cresswell, CEO of TCI and Climate Change Leaders added “Over a dozen school boards have joined the program since its inception, and although there is still lots of work ahead of us, we are pleased to see education leaders take a proactive and engineered approach to improving wellness and potentially reducing carbon in schools”.

child doing school work

The social and educational benefits of in-person learning are abundantly clear, however, concerns over classroom ventilation and how that could affect student health and performance, remains to be a pressing issue. World Green Building Council has produced a series of briefing notes on indoor environmental air quality outlining factors that affect student and staff health and well-being and performance.

As communities continue to navigate the ripple effects of the pandemic, it is encouraging to see school boards working vigorously to provide improved ventilation and healthier teaching-learning environments students, teachers, and staff.

NERVA Energy is an award-winning energy advisory firm helping clients maximize their energy performance decrease greenhouse gas emissions. As a co-founder of the Cleaner Air for Schools Program, NERVA is approved by the Ontario Collaborative Educational Marketplace (OECM) to provide Duct Sealing services, including ventilation auditing, optimization and validation.  To learn more, visit:

Established in 2000, Thomas Cole Inc. (TCI) a Cleaner Air for Schools partner and founding partner of Climate Chane Leaders advises on the most effective path to net zero. CCL is a learning partnership with Mohawk College and ten school districts designed to transform school buildings to a carbon-neutral model while linking experiential learning for students. Read more about our experience here.

Mohawk College educates and serves more than 29,500 full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and international students at three main campuses in Hamilton, Ontario. Mohawk is among the top 10 colleges in Canada for applied research. It has been named one of Canada’s greenest employers seven years in a row, holds a GOLD STARS rating from AASHE for sustainability achievements and is home to the country’s largest and first institutional building to receive dual certification for Zero Carbon Building Framework design and performance for The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation.

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