Building ventilation is currently in the spotlight. We are faced with the challenge of making buildings safer and more corona-proof. The motivation is grim, but the opportunity is huge: act vigorously now and make your building truly healthy and sustainable.

At the beginning of the new schoolyear, the administrators of educational buildings went into high gear. They are searching for answers to pressing questions. What is the state of the ventilation in our school buildings? How do we provide our students with a safe learning environment? What do I need to adjust and how do I go about this?

A neglected issue

A healthy and safe learning environment. Schools have not always given this first priority in recent years. Too much noise, too little light, insufficient ventilation, improperly adjusted installations – these are conditions regularly encountered in educational buildings. While most buildings are compliant with the Dutch Building Decree, this is a lower limit that does not provide due consideration to climate change or a pandemic.

The cause of this situation? Often a limited budget and a conscious decision to invest in other parts of education. In office buildings too, more attention is sometimes devoted to the look & feel than good environment conditions, while such conditions determine the wellbeing and health of its users, their biggest capital. 

3 steps for the short-term

Air management and ventilation is a profession apart in the developed environment. All the more so when you consider that no data or drawings are available for many existing buildings, at least none that are current. In addition, the layout of the workstations often no longer matches the ventilation flows due to renovations or internal moves. Then how do you know which interventions you need to implement?

As is often the case when you are faced with a major urgency, it is best for schools to take a very practical approach. In broad outline, I recommend you take the following three steps:

Step 1: The building or ventilation scan
Gather as much building data and as many drawings as possible. Ask a specialist to check this information. Note: this requires real expertise; therefore be judicious in selecting whom you ask to carry out his task. The specialist surveys the existing situation and, if necessary, conducts additional tests to gain further insight.

Step 2: Analysis and risk analysis
On the basis of the scan you map out the risks and determine the control measures. This may include technical interventions, for example adding extra ventilation. However, a solution can also be organisational. For example, adjusting a certain work area to match the ventilation’s capacity. 

Step 3: Implementation
On the basis of the analysis develop a plan that you subsequently implement.

Marc Kooij
Marc Kooij: Never waste a good crisis and seize this moment to make your building future-proof by making use of building intelligence and data management services.

Major opportunities over the long-term
After you complete these three steps, the building will be adjusted to account for the new situation and recommendations. This enables schools to allow their students back into their buildings with confidence. However, the adjustments are based on observations recorded at a single point in time. After all, it is not inconceivable that progressive insight obtained through research will result in still different recommendations. When this happens, the installations would have to be reassessed. In part for this reason, it is worthwhile to include an additional step.

Step 4: Adding building intelligence and digitalisation

With a view to the future you can add building intelligence that enables you to constantly monitor the working and learning environment. This can be done at a very low threshold. Thanks to easily installed mobile sensors you can obtain insight into comfort and ventilation in various spots. You can then bring this data together on a single platform, where it can be quickly analysed to detect any deviations. This can furthermore also be done in relation to any new recommended limit values.

From safe to healthy
For building managers it is quite a job to modify the air management systems in their building to accommodate the new reality. But it would be a pity not to add a few supplementary steps. What comes to mind here is the smart monitoring and adjustment of energy consumption. This is all the more interesting now that the extra ventilation will cause the building to be less energy-efficient. How does this affect the sustainability objectives?

Never waste a good crisis and seize this moment to make your building future-proof by making use of building intelligence and data management services. This way you not only create a safe, but also a truly healthy building with ideal conditions in which to learn and work. To achieve this, you need the same digital instruments and platforms as those used for a smart ventilation system. This way you kill two birds with one stone.

This blog is also published on the Duurzaam Gebouwd [Sustainably Built] platform.

Marc Kooij

The opportunity is huge: act vigorously now and make your building truly healthy and sustainable

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