In spring last year a study from RIBA found that 1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the condition of the school buildings they have to teach in, whilst over 90% of teachers believe well-built and designed schools improve educational outcomes and pupil behaviour.

For pupils and teachers within schools, buzzwords at the moment centre on mindfulness and protecting our mental well-being.  Most of us now spend 80 – 90% of time indoors.  As such the indoor environment is more important than ever.  Can natural ventilation in schools really have an impact on the health and well-being of our pupils? 

Natural ventilation and cooling guidelines in schools

The BB101 guide for schools in relation to natural ventilation requires the below approach:

  • Significant need highlighted for natural ventilation and where appropriate simple, responsive mechanical ventilation to maintain air. It should be simple to operate and quickly responsive to allow air quality to be easily maintained.
  • Thermal comfort and control over temperature. Thermal controls should be easy to use and quick to adapt to changing uses of space.
  • Good acoustics. For effective learning, pupil engagement, and wellbeing.

Air pollution inside and out

Analysis of the severity of health problems caused, and the number of people affected by air pollution was carried out for the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2008.  One of the most serious indoor air quality risks identified is one over which building designers and occupants have limited control. Particles - predominantly products of combustion - increase the risk, and the severity, of heart disease and respiratory illnesses, and are blamed for many premature deaths. The main source of particulate pollution is traffic, especially in UK cities.  London along with 11 other UK cities, has frequently seen spikes in air pollution already in 2017 due to weather, congestion and other issues. 

In addition to polluted air being brought inside, poor indoor air quality can also be attributed to many problems inside a building.  Excess humidity causes dampness, rot and mould, whilst pollutants are known to be a major cause of health issues such as asthma and eczema. Stale air is also believed to lead to a loss in productivity and low morale.

One way to counteract outdoor air-pollution in schools near busy roads is to use a fully ducted ventilation system such as MVHR with extra fine filters fitted.

A review by the German research institute, Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics and published by Velux, revealed that many children are frequently working in classrooms with excessive levels of CO2, above the recommended range of 1,000 – 2,000 ppm.

Benefits of improving ventilation and reducing CO2

The researchers found that improving ventilation rates, reducing CO2 concentration and increasing access to daylight in classrooms, improves pupils’ performance in terms of higher levels of attention and concentration and lower rates of absenteeism.  Better buildings not only lead to brighter students, they are also good for the economy in terms of increased productivity.

Monodraught’s MVHR systems are designed to simultaneously supply tempered fresh air to any built space ensuring the correct oxygen levels are maintained whilst expelling stale air.  By increasing oxygen levels and reducing CO2 levels, it is believed that this approach can allow students and teachers to:   

  • Have more energy and a sharper mind, leading to better concentration
  • Improve mental wellbeing
  • Healthier blood pressure and heart rate
  • Strengthen immune system and cleans lungs

In the US, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, showed that improved indoor air quality in schools positively impacts student performance.  A renovation project for ventilation had a positive effect on test scores, comparable to reducing class sizes. The study focused on 65 primary schools which all underwent substantial repairs within a 5 year period meaning that there was an opportunity to compare schools before and after the renovations.

To find out more about our ventilation solutions for schools and colleges including X-Air Windcatchers, Hybrid Thermal Mixing (HTM) and MVHR, have a look at some of our education case studies or please contact us to discuss your project.

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