The Importance of Good Air Quality in Educational Settings

blog 22 Feb 2022

In the era of COVID-19, it’s never been more important to have good indoor air quality in schools, colleges and other educational settings.

As the recently published document ‘Joint Union Guide to Improving Ventilation in Schools and Colleges’ states, government guidance is very clear about the importance of ventilation in relation to COVID-19. And although ventilation is key to a safer working environment, “good ventilation also aids student concentration, so will continue to pay dividends in relation to learning even when the pandemic is over.”1

Unfortunately, poor ventilation is still prevalent in educational environments, especially in older buildings. Some have inadequate or outdated heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that simply move unclean air from one part of the building to another, whilst other facilities have no ventilation systems at all. In buildings with poor ventilation HVAC systems are having to work harder which can offset green strategies and prove to be costly.

The link between air quality and cognitive function

New research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found a correlation between air quality in office environments and workers’ cognitive function. The year-long international study, which spanned six countries and over 40 buildings, found low ventilation rates and increased levels of particulate matter were linked with reduced performance in cognitive tests.

The study suggests that poor indoor air quality affects general health and productivity significantly more than was previously understood. It shows a clear correlation between exposure to airborne contaminants such as Particulate Matter, VOCs and odours causing a drop in concentration levels and performance.

Several further studies have shown that with good indoor air quality people are generally less tired and more alert thanks to improved oxygen flow, contributing to improved well-being, reduced absenteeism and better student and staff productivity. By contrast, buildings with poor ventilation can lead to students and staff suffering from symptoms such as headaches, itchy eyes and nausea.

With the global pandemic bringing attention to issues such as building ventilation, there is more interest than ever before in educational and other organisations seeking to improve indoor environments.

Slowing Infectious Disease Transmission Indoors

Perhaps the more obvious benefit of improved ventilation is slowing the transmission of infectious diseases indoors, strategies such as better ventilation and filtration are key to achieving this. If schools and colleges put various measures in place but ventilation is still poor, air cleaning and filtration units can be an effective means of reducing transmission where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation.

In the US, it has been reported that to help control the spread of COVID-19, the education department has provided all 56,000 New York City public school classrooms with two air purifiers.

As the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) here in the UK advises, these units are by no means a substitute for well-designed and maintained ventilation systems, but they can play a very important role where ventilation has not proven sufficient. The HSE advises that the most suitable types to use are High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and ultraviolet-based devices.

Reducing the Risk

At Sunbelt Rentals, we can help schools and colleges reduce their risk and create a healthy learning environment with safe, cleaner air for everyone. The S400 Air Disinfection Device eliminates up to 99.9995% of harmful airborne pathogens and pollutants, including Norovirus which is one of the most difficult viruses to kill.

Minimising disturbance in classrooms

The S400 is simply plugged into a standard plug point, and it is very easy to move and set up. Using only as much power as the average ceiling fan, it is low noise and has no effect on the existing temperature, so there is very little - if any - disturbance in classrooms during use.

Some schools in busy, urban areas open windows to ensure better ventilation, but this can be very noisy and can subject students and staff to external pollutants, such as diesel emissions. These pollutants can be more harmful than the air inside the building itself.

The S400 Air Disinfection Device incorporates a powerful fan which performs high volume, low turbulent air changes (eqACH), with a combination of HEPA filtration and UV-C light to eliminate particles and disinfect the air.

In fact, the S400 is considered so effective that it’s even used in medical facilities such as intensive care units, operating theatres and isolation rooms. At rates of 400 cubic feet per minute, the S400 unit cleans air faster for its size than any other air disinfection system.

For further advice about how we can help you create comfortable, safe and healthy environments, for the benefit of students and staff alike, contact us today.

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