July 8, 2020
Our understanding of the relationship between health and the indoor environment has evolved in the last decade. With 90% of our time spent indoors, largely in modern airtight buildings, the quality of our indoor environment plays a significant role in influencing our health and wellbeing. In the past, studies on the quality of the indoor environment were centred around air quality and comfort factors (temperature and humidity). More recently, research has taken a holistic approach in considering the complex relationship between building and occupants, and various lighting and design features. In understanding these factors we can evaluate building design to determine what equates to a good learning environment to best support children’s education.
In the UK, classrooms must comply with Building Bulletin 101 (BB101), a set of Government-issued guidelines on ventilation, thermal comfort and indoor air quality in schools. BB101 intends to address some of the major issues we have in our existing classrooms as well as setting a new standard for school design.
Mechanical ventilation, unlike more traditional methods, is engineered to automatically control airflow, ensuring each classroom receives the required amount of ventilation to achieve a safe and invigorating environment. Newly issued guidelines from the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), encourage the “use of adequate mechanical ventilation and air filtration” to attain good classroom air quality. Mechanical ventilation in the classroom is also supported in a study by Hviid et al 2016 which demonstrated that the addition of mechanical ventilation improved indoor air quality resulting in a significant improvement in pupil’s cognitive ability. Pupil’s feedback included comments such as “we are less tired” and a teacher commented, “actually, there are fewer complaints of headache [sic]”.
Studies have found that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a damaging effect on cognitive performance. Allen Et Al (2015) tested adults’ cognitive ability by assessing applied activity level, information usage and strategy in well-ventilated rooms (Green, Green +) compared to conventionally ventilated rooms. The results show that in all categories, performance is noticeably inhibited by an increasing room CO2 level. On average, cognitive scores were 61% higher in Green environments and 101% higher in Green+ environments when compared to conventional offices. The effect of CO2 on smaller bodies is greater, so poor indoor air quality would be more detrimental when considering school-age occupants. Therefore, with proper ventilation, learning environments can be improved. Taking this into account, BB101 (2018) requires mechanically ventilated classrooms to be better than Harvard’s conventional standard with a daily average CO2 level of less than 1,000 ppm.
Earlier this year, the City School in Denmark took part in a new study by The Danish Technical University (DTU). Results showed that when lighting, acoustics, and air quality (through mechanical ventilation) are combined and controlled correctly, you can achieve an average of 10% improvement in learning and performance abilities of pupils. Morten May, the School Principal, said of the improved classroom environment, “It’s remarkable what it’s like to be there now. We have an employee who said that it’s like stepping into a whole different climate zone. It’s hard to put your finger on, exactly what it does. There is just an incredibly comfortable atmosphere.”
Studies such as these provide a strong case for mechanically ventilated schools. With the addition of mechanical ventilation in the classroom, pupils’ learning capabilities will be increased, and their health and wellbeing safeguarded. AirMaster SMVs, equipped with sufficient filtration, CO2 sensors, demand-controlled operation and low noise is a simple and effective solution for school ventilation. That is why headmasters choose AirMasters.