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Study of air quality in Statesboro’s city buildings wins $127,000 innovation grant
Georgia Southern hosts PIN’s 2023 grant ceremony
Courtesy of City of Statesboro City of Statesboro officials and the team of researchers who proposed the study of air quality in the city’s buildings, left to right, Dr. Stacy Smallwood, City Manager Charles Penny, Mayor Pro Tem Shari Barr, Assistant to the City Manager Olympia Gaines, Dr. Jingjing Yin, Dr. Atin Adhikari, Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles and Dr. Anindya Chanda attend the PIN Community Research Grants ceremony at Georgia Southern University on Sept. 6, 2023.

Georgia Southern University hosted this year’s Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, or PIN, statewide ceremony for Community Research Grants. One of the four grants awarded will fund a project to study and improve air quality in Statesboro’s city government buildings.

Both that study and another of the grant-awarded projects, which is targeted at improving water quality and addressing environmental disparities in Glynn County and the city of Brunswick, are led by Georgia Southern faculty members as principal investigators. The grants were awarded Wednesday afternoon, Sept.  6, at the Engineering & Research Building on Georgia Southern’s Statesboro campus. The other two communities receiving grants are the city of Atlanta, for a project using “smart transportation technology” to eliminate barriers to using Atlanta’s transportation network, and Milledgeville, where Georgia State College & University is launching a solar power certificate program.

The grants were awarded in amounts up to $150,000. The one-year pilot study of air quality in Statesboro city buildings garnered a $127,225 grant.

Dr. Jingjing Yin, associate professor of biostatistics in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University, leads the multidisciplinary research team that proposed the study in partnership with the city government. The other research team members are Dr. Atin Adhikari, associate professor of environmental health, and Dr. Stacy Smallwood, associate professor of community health, both also with the JPH College of Public Health at Georgia Southern, and Dr. Anindya Chanda with Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

“The goal is to monitor and evaluate the air quality within the city facilities, and also we want to investigate the impact of intervention programs, whether these improve the indoor air quality, and measure the perceived indoor air quality from city employees’ perspective, how they feel about their workplace air quality,” Yin said.


Multiple buildings

The pilot study will investigate air quality in about 16 areas of the city’s buildings, focusing on malodor – in other words, unpleasant smells – and volatile organic compounds. Buildings involved in the study will include City Hall and the Public Utilities Department’s administrative building and possibly its shops, the Police Department headquarters, Fire Department stations, Wastewater Treatment offices and lab and two Averitt Center for the Arts buildings, said Olympia Gaines, assistant to the city manager, who is helping researchers identify the target areas.

The researchers will gather data from multiple “smart” sensors and also consider subjective perceptions through employee surveys used to measure the impact of interventions.

A number of undergraduate and graduate students from Georgia Southern will be involved in the research, Yin said.


Green intervention

The intervention efforts she spoke of involve the placement of indoor plants in workspaces to address pollutant issues. This “green intervention” technique fits with the PIN Community Research Grant Program’s “cleantech” theme for 2023.

“We are going to use indoor plants, which sometimes will help reduce VOCs – volatile organic compounds – as well also as malodor issues,” Yin said. “It’s a tenable solution as compared to a traditional filter, like a carbon filter, because we won’t need extra precautions to dispose of used filters. Used filters are like another kind of pollution.”

The funded project is a pilot study because it aims at determining whether the findings and interventions are “scalable” to the larger community and other settings where indoor air quality is an issue.

A media release issued by the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation quoted Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar.

“The well-being of our employees and visitors is of the utmost importance to our organization,” McCollar said. “It is our hope that this study will equip the city of Statesboro with the necessary tools and resources to improve air quality in city facilities. We are thankful to the Communities Research Grant for funding this opportunity and look forward to seeing the innovative solutions generated from this study.”

The study involving the city of Brunswick has Dr. Asli Aslan, founding director of the Institute for Water and Health at Georgia Southern, as its principal investigator, and Smallwood is also a co-investigator on that research team.

“Local citizens directly impacted by poor water quality will be trained to test their water and share the results with the broader community,” states the summary of this project in the PIN release.

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is directed by a group of leaders from Georgia’s state government, Georgia Tech and private and public institutions across the state.
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