Dr. Bill Cleveland began his first year as superintendent of Homewood City Schools
before these comparisons were published. But he was well aware that IAQ, especially particulate pollution, was poor, and he was determined to improve it.

Dr. Cleveland was, prior to his appointment as superintendent, Homewood City Schools’ assistant superintendent for business operations - the academic equivalent of a chief financial officer (CFO) in business. So he understood that a solution should not worsen the budget deficit.

There was a third priority as well. Dr. Cleveland had previously been central to the certification by LEED® of Homewood Middle School.

In fact, Homewood was the first middle school in America to become LEED-certified. Homewood City Schools had long been committed to the principles of good environ-mental practices and was determined that the IAQ issue would be resolved in line with environmentally sound principles. Homewood High School was also recently named as one of America’s top 500 public high schools by Newsweek Magazine – a list directly related to participation in advanced placement.

TEST CASE

It seemed like a daunting challenge: improve the quality of air for children and staff, hopefully reduce absenteeism due to respiratory illnesses and asthma, and doing so without adding to the budget deficit.

Dr. Cleveland began by consulting with one of his facility managers, Neil Long, in October 2007. Earlier in his career, Long had worked for 15 years in the heating and air conditioning industry, and was well versed in air filtration. He had served in facility management for UAB prior to being tapped for the top post at Homewood.

Long had recently reviewed research data on a new air filtration technology that paid for itself almost immediately in direct savings as a result of reduced energy use, less-frequent filter changeouts, and other measurable metrics.

The filter is trade-named the “30/30” for its 30% higher dust holding capacity and 30% greater efficiency. The filter is a radial pleat panel filter designed to be compatible with any filter bank used in business, schools, or health care facilities. Its manufacturer, Camfil Farr, was already an approved vendor for the school system. Chris Sheheane, Camfil Farr’s Birmingham’s branch manager, suggested a test bank be set up where an “apples to apples” comparison could be made between the new filters and those that were then in use.

“I attended Homewood City Schools for six years,” says Sheheane, “and I really wanted to help my alma mater. I thought an on-site test would let us all see what was possible in terms of energy savings, filter life, and reduction in total cost to the dis-trict.”

The best opportunity, according to Neil Long, was the high school. “It had,” he ex-plains, “twin, identical, heating/cooling units on top of the gym.”

The 30/30 filters were set-up for a six-month trial alongside the filters that had been in use. The test period was slated to end in June 2008. Four months into the study, how-ever, the contrast between the original filters and the new 30/30 filter technology was so extreme that the test was halted. Performance results, which were certified by an inde-pendent lab, were impressive. Rather than generate an expense, Homewood High School had a net cash savings of $200 per filter. There are 144 filters, so the direct dollar savings were both immediate and substantial.

THE SAVINGS ADD UP

Additional savings would be realized from several other sources. First among those are labor costs. Since the new filters last twice as long, changeout is only half as frequent. En-ergy expense would also be reduced: the 30/30 filters are engineered for very low air re-sistance, therefore, less energy is required to move air through the filters. Disposal costs, and incidental expenses such as shipping, also contribute to cash savings.

Dr. Cleveland immediately authorized Neil Long to complete the conversion to the new fil-ters. Shortly thereafter, Homewood High School became an ECI “5-Star” school. ECI (En-ergy Cost Index) is a filtration designation determined by a filter’s efficiency over its lifetime, and the energy required to move air through that filter. ECI compares filters of similar construction under the same conditions of operation and provides an indicator of true performance. An ECI of five stars is the highest rating granted.

Discussions are underway regarding the changeover of other Homewood schools to the new filter technology. In addition, all schools in the Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills are now using Camfil Farr air filters.

The 30/30 filters have particular advantages for schools and colleges, because they can be used as a “final filter” in areas such as classrooms, cafeterias, and gymnasiums. Schools with laboratories and health care facilities can use the 30/30 as a “prefilter” to ex-tend the life of the costly HEPA and ULPA filters typically used in those environments.  ES