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How do we know that the indoor climate in our schools is sufficient?

How do we know that the indoor climate in our schools is sufficient? Could measuring CO2 work as a tool in getting there?

Since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic awareness has grown rapidly about the importance of fresh air indoors and increased ventilation rates. Much of the attention has been focused on schools – our children’s working environment – as a potential place for contamination and spread of viruses. The debate has focused on the ventilation of classrooms and how to make sure that the air quality and air exchange in the room is correct, and how to increase the ventilation rate where needed. Hence a lot of schools have started to install carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors.

In the UK, the Department for Education has decided that 300,000 carbon dioxide sensors should be installed in schools across the country to map the status of the ventilation and see where further action is needed. To measure and use CO2 level as an indicator of good or poor air quality has for a long time been an approved method, while carbon dioxide is an easy gas to detect. And since it has been a measure used for a long time within our industry it is also easy to discuss and relate to when dimensioning the building. There are also some recommended limits to guide us when determining which CO2 level is suitable inside a workplace, e.g. a maximum of 1000 ppm according to the Swedish Institute of Work Environment.

CO2 levels gives an indication of how many people could stay in the room at the same time and also indicate if there is a need to ventilate other pollutants. A CO2 level at or above 1000 ppm, while not being dangerous from a health perspective, starts to influence our cognitive capabilities, such as learning new things and taking strategic decisions.

It is a good start to measure CO2 in order to monitor the status of the ventilation system and the air quality. But in order for our children to perform well in school, where they learn for life, a holistic approach where we also measure temperature, particles, pollutions and sound, which is influencing health and performance as well, needs to be considered when deciding on what to do when adjusting the ventilation systems. To measure is to know.

And when you know, it’s time for action. In the UK, after measuring the CO2 levels, a plan can be made to set aside funding for enhanced ventilation systems in schools where insufficient ventilation has been discovered. Meanwhile, a number of advice have been given to the schools:

  • Have a good ventilation: an efficient ventilation system is recommended to ensure a good air renewal of fresh air
  • Air the rooms: it is recommended to open the windows and the doors regularly to reduce the effects of confinement.
  • Controlling pollution sources:there are many sources of pollution and it is important to limit them.
  • Take measurements using air quality sensors: these sensors measure the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants levels in the room

UK´s initiative is both ambitious and admirable. Will we see more countries follow their lead and focus on improving the indoor climate in schools?

To measure is to know, and one way to see what improvements need to be made, is to measure several different parameters. Swegon has smart services for analyzing the indoor climate and also demand controlled ventilation systems that ensure the correct airflow, temperature and comfort.