Optimal air quality can bring A level results

UCL Student Centre common space

Two years of constant disturbance has completely changed the educational landscape, and in many cases for the worse. The problem is a complex one but can, in part, be attributed to lower productivity, as COVID-caused disruption affects teaching programmes, the ability of pupils to learn and retain information and, subsequently, the grades achieved. However, a less considered, but important factor at play are the school buildings themselves, particularly regarding the quality and efficiency of air circulation and ventilation within.

The impact of poor IAQ

Bad air quality was a problem that plagued the interiors of commercial and educational spaces for years. However, lockdown’s negative impact on the delivery of the curriculum, creating an uncomfortable ‘hybrid’ at home and in-classroom model, prompted institutions to reappraise the interior design of educational assets; especially when it was understood that merely being inside these spaces was placing occupants in danger. Specifically, the goal became to make classrooms and facilities as safe and comfortable as possible, encouraging people back into a low-risk setting. As such, ensuring good ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) became a priority to help get staff and pupils back in the classroom full time. Whilst better IAQ would minimise the Coronavirus risk, there were further, added benefits. Aside from adding to COVID anxiety, poor IAQ has been scientifically shown to have a significant detrimental effect on concentration and productivity. This harms both the volume and quality of work completed throughout the day. Primarily, improved IAQ would prevent a wide variety of negative health issues which come under the umbrella term ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ (SBS). A term used to describe several symptoms brought on by extended confinement to an indoor location with insufficient ventilation.

Arts Student Centre at UBC

The Natural Solution

Similar to poor IAQ, natural ventilation is not a new concept, but it certainly represents the most sustainable and efficient way to address it. WindowMaster’s easy-to-install and operate systems harness the natural air supply of the surrounding environment, benefiting classroom productivity for both teachers and students alike. The innovative technology also means that our systems can be automated to control airflow, ensuring a comfortable climate depending on external and internal conditions. Our low maintenance systems can be programmed, taking into account periods of peak and low occupancy, very important for educational institutions when operating in and out of term time. These capabilities can be further enhanced through fabric-first construction which can significantly improve the thermal performance of the building without mechanical assistance. With funding squeezed like never before, the saving made through adopting natural ventilation will free up extra capital which can be better placed elsewhere within the school facility.

Birkeroed Gymnasium Web 02
UWE Bristol Business School

Back to learning with a smile

Additionally, natural ventilation is a far more sustainable option than carbon-intensive mechanical HVAC. This is a major advantage as educational establishments not only look to increase well-being, but are also seeking to reduce their carbon footprints. With Net-Zero targets on the horizon, more schools are being designed and built to low carbon standards, while teachers and pupils themselves are also placing more emphasis on ecological preservation. By subsequently influencing specification decisions, inevitably, this will sway the increased interest in passive and natural fixtures, fittings and finishes, to deliver interiors that not only protect occupants, but also the natural environment. Ultimately, providing students a safe, secure and comfortable setting in which to learn is imperative, and guaranteeing good IAQ is an essential part of it. Not only is natural ventilation by far the best way to deliver such an environment sustainably. It will contribute to better performance, and a stress-free environment to deliver the highest quality education, allowing teachers, parents and pupils to breathe easy!

Fargerlig Skole classroom

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