Air-Quality In The School

“We ended up getting a lot of inferior equipment; software-wise and hardware.”


Marcos Gouvea

The air quality in the school has been a hot topic in classrooms during the sweet final minutes before the bell goes a-ringin’. Teachers and students all say how the air control system used by Sutton High School is dysfunctional and a regular AC system would be better. Hearing all of this, Sutton High News decided to answer the questions being asked by interviewing Roger Raymond, the head of maintenance.

SHS News: What is the type of air control system that the school uses?

Mr. Raymond: The system is controlled a hundred percent by software. It is a displacement ventilation system. It was designed by the engineers to not totally condition the air during the hot & humid season. It wasn’t designed to provide a true cooling of the air but rather to take out the humidity from the air; so when it is 90 degrees and humid outside, it is supposed to make the building feel around 75 but dry. It is not going to get it to 65 or 68 inside the building, it just wasn’t designed to do so.

SHS News: What are some of the fundamental pieces that are supposed to make the system function properly?

Mr. Raymond: There are a lot of different pieces to the system. First of all, you have the rooftop units, and units throughout the building, that are all tied together and controlled by a software program. The program not only monitors the operation of AC units but also contains the parameters of how the system works such as temperature set points and scheduling.

Some units have their own built-in air conditioning equipment and others get their cooling from a chiller unit. The way the system works is that it sends cold water throughout the system to the rooftop units. The water cools the air during the hot season, and during the cold season, it sends hot water to the system which warms the air rather than cools it. The air travels through the heat/cooling coil into the air ducts to classrooms. 

SHS News: Why did the school opt for this system rather than a regular AC one?

Mr. Raymond: It has to do with when you are designing a school and it goes out to bid. Massachusetts laws say that if you want to get funds from the state to build the school you need to take the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder doesn’t mean you are always going to get the best stuff. So when a bidder comes to look at the project, he sees what he needs to get that meets the expectations while still paying the lowest price. […] 

We ended up getting a lot of inferior equipment; software-wise and hardware.

SHS News: Tell me some pros and cons of getting a regular AC system.

Mr. Raymond: I’d say that the biggest enemy right now is cost. To rebuild and reinstall the system all over again would be something along the lines of millions maybe. It would be extremely difficult for the town to accept upgrading the system, due to the building being relatively ‘new’. 

SHS News: What are some of the reasons that caused the current system to not function properly?

Mr. Raymond: I would say that the rooftop systems we have were not one of the better name-brand manufacturers. This was a new company that was trying to get into the rooftop and air handling market. Generally speaking, it is very common to have mechanical problems and software bugs when starting up, or developing a new design.