How can schools enhance indoor air quality this winter?

How can schools enhance indoor air quality this winter?

Children travel to school wrapped up in scarfs, coats and gloves to fight the winter temperatures. But once these children step into the school environment and the coats come off, are they learning in an environment which is both comfortable and maintains excellent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

UK schools house more than 10 million children and young adults who spend around a third of their time at school – where 70% of this time is spent indoors. It is therefore crucial that schools provide their pupils with the best possible learning environment.

Failing to effectively heat, cool and ventilate a building, especially a school building where there are many vulnerable occupants can have a huge impact. It has been proven that poor air quality, caused by a high concentration of CO2 can impact educational performance, productivity and sickness. Densely populated classrooms are likely to notice the highest CO2 levels, which is particularly pertinent considering the number of school children looking for places in the UK is increasing meaning that many schools are now oversubscribed. It has been revealed that between November and December 2013, 85% of manually ventilated classrooms failed to deliver average occupied CO2 concentrations of less than 1,500ppm. By decreasing the indoor CO2 levels to 1,000ppm, illness and absenteeism in students can decrease by up to 2.5%.

Manual ventilation methods such as opening windows in school buildings is failing to improve IAQ, and is instead increasing pollutant levels from the external environment, especially in inner city environments. Noise pollution is also much higher with these solutions, in turn impacting pupil’s concentration, and over the winter months making pupils cold.

The regulation entitled ‘Guidelines of Ventilation, Thermal Comfort and Indoor Air Quality in Schools’ by the Department for Education (DfE) was created to ensure that students were able to learn in a productive environment. These regulations have stated that in general teaching and learning spaces where mechanical ventilation is used, the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide shouldn’t exceed 1,500ppm for more than 20 consecutive minutes each day.

Whilst fixed-speed systems are more effective when compared to natural ventilation, these mechanical systems can only ventilate at a pre-determined rate, having little regard for ever-changing room and occupancy requirements. Schools should instead be looking to install Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) – an intelligent ventilation solution which is 28% more efficient than natural ventilation methods. DCV only vents fresh filtered air when required, whilst also eliminating the drawbacks of draughts, stuffiness and security risks.

DCV solutions are intelligent, and can instantly detect high CO2 levels. When this occurs, fresh, filtered air can be introduced into the room whilst the stale air can be extracted; ensuring that there is always the right balance for occupants. This means that just the right amount of ventilation can be provided to suit its surroundings whilst maintaining comfort. The level of ventilation required depends on many factors, such as the occupancy of the room, as well as the time of day, as it is likely that CO2 levels will be higher in classrooms after lunch as pupils have been exercising and eating.

Investing in an effective DCV solution means that CO2 levels are constantly monitored, ensuring good indoor air quality is present without wasting energy unnecessarily – something with constantly squeezed budgets educational establishments try to avoid. A healthy, productive environment will almost always correlate to a school of healthy and productive students.