Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

RenewAire To the Rescue for Avon Old Farms School

Avon Old Farms School is a beautiful, sprawling campus of period buildings, where historic preservation makes technological upgrades challenging. Credit: Avon Old Farms

Barb and Greg Whitchurch

Remember the spring of 2020? Covid was a “thing.” Scientists and health officials say, “Watch Out!” Our top-ranking politicians and other so-called influencers call it a hoax, or at worst a passing cold or flu. And the Avon Old Farms school in Avon, CT approaches the end of their school year with trepidation.

Part of Avon Old Farms emergency IAQ solution with RenewAire ERVs. (Photo: RenewAire)

Avon Old Farms (AOF, is a boarding school for young men. Among their many and varied responsibilities is the personal well-being of their students, faculty and staff. And they needed to address the pandemic seriously, successfully and SOON — by the time of school re-opening in the fall.

A primary vector for Covid transmission is air-borne respiratory droplets, so masking of uninfected people is helpful; removing the air-borne virus and replacing it with fresh, filtered air is also very important.

If you’ve heard of indoor air quality (IAQ) it might have had to do with the unhealthful effects of using propane or natural gas appliances inside of living spaces (schools, homes, etc.;; or perhaps as it related to smoke from wildfires infiltrating poorly sealed homes; or mold spores inside homes with poorly designed exterior wall systems. But two years ago, it became clear that IAQ was an important factor in fighting Covid, and that balanced, filtered ventilation could help.

Another problem that emerged was that uncontrolled carbon dioxide levels in classrooms or other stagnant air spaces affect thinking and sleeping. High particulate levels (smoke, gas cooking) affect one’s ability to resist respiratory infections; other indoor air contaminants are more and some are less dangerous. Modern high efficiency buildings (from Passive House to Energy Star) of all sizes are now designed with carefully balanced energy-recovering fresh, filtered air ventilation systems. RenewAire ventilation equipment is a popular choice in this field.

The school called in van Zelm engineering (, a huge firm fully capable of designing a Covid-safe solution that would also greatly improve the overall IAQ of the old buildings.

Far left and right window openings are sacrificed as intake and exhaust for the emergency ventilation system installed in this building to address IAQ in the early stages of the Covid pandemic. (Photo: RenewAire)

Van Zelm called in Melia Associates ( for design assistance and specified RenewAire ventilation systems ( distributed by RST Thermal ( Then they created a plan to address AOF’s needs within the extant spaces and constraints – ducting, venting, pass-throughs, etc. RST expedited the RenewAire equipment deliveries.

Not willing to farm out such a delicate operation to others, Glenn Wilcox, director of facilities at AOF and his team performed the actual installation, always with the buildings’ preservation in mind. You can find RenewAire’s description of the job at , and a YouTube of the result at .

But they’re not done! All of this was accomplished in just seven weeks, almost two years ago, and although fully effective, the design and equipment were meant to meet an emergent situation as quickly as possible. To avoid unnecessary long-term compromise of the historical architecture, much of the work was left exposed and temporary.

Now AOF is taking the time and spending the money to remove most of the equipment and replace it with new RenewAire systems more tightly integrated with the buildings and spaces so that their appearance is as discreet as possible. So, the original process is to be repeated, but now with everyone familiar with one another and with the experience of having gone through a most thorough dress rehearsal.

The lead of Avon Old Farms can serve as a model for how to approach special-needs projects involving IAQ.

The Whitchurches are owners of a net-zero Passive House in Middlesex, Vermont ( and are board members of VT Passive House. (,

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>