With good ventilation, you reduce the chance of transferring the coronavirus. This is why many building managers would like to optimise the air quality in their buildings. Senior Consultant Henk Smit spends his time, day and night, to help them do this. Take the Wilmink Theatre in Enschede, for example. In this blog, he provides a look behind the scenes.

A simple job? No, it’s anything but that. Improving the air quality in a building is far more complex than meets the eye. There needs to be more fresh air circulating, but no one wants to be sitting in a draught. A key factor is the ventilation capacity. This factor indicates how many cubic metres of fresh air per person per hour is available in a room. On this basis, you can determine how many people should be allowed to be in a room at the same time. In case of theatres and cinemas, the average ventilation capacity per person is between 30 and 40 cubic metres per hour (m3/h) – depending on the year of construction and the installation’s configuration. During this corona period, we are aiming for a much higher capacity of 60 m3/h per person. This is far safer.

Smoke in the Theatre

The Wilmink Theatre is an important cultural hotspot in Enschede and its surroundings. Its manager has a clear goal: to be able to safely accommodate as many people as possible in the theatre’s various halls. A perfect job for our experts. We used special equipment to acquire insight into the airflows in the Wilmink Theatre in Enschede, because on paper we knew exactly how the ventilation works and how the air travels through the building, but we did not know whether this matched reality. So it was important for us to measure this first.

To conduct this measurement, we first blew smoke into the various spaces using a smoke machine. By shining lasers on the smoke plumes, we were able to see how the air moves through a room. Where it comes from, where it goes to and where there is not enough airflow. Thanks to this technique, an unexpected airflow was identified. Very useful, because clearly this was a weak spot in the system, and we can only make improvements when we know where all the weak spots are.
Schonere lucht dankzij rook, lasers en sensoren
Insight into airflows and an improved ventilation capacity. This in itself is already quite a lot, but it’s not everything. Because it would also be good to know whether the approach works, now and in the future.

Sensors in Offices

We do not fill every building with smoke. We use a different approach for offices. Less custom work is required here, because the rooms are of comparable height. The smoke machine and the lasers here are replaced with mobile sensors. By installing these devices near work areas, we can very precisely measure the ventilation and air quality at many different locations. Perhaps less spectacular, but definitely just as effective. If an office building deviates from ‘normal’ dimensions, smoke and lasers can, of course, still be used.

Just like it is for theatres and cinemas, the main question is: how many people at a maximum are allowed inside without causing air quality to drop below critical standards? We do not measure the air quality in offices with centralised CO2 meters, because they can produce a distorted picture. We want to know what the air quality is like at specific points: the areas where people are at work. That's what it's all about. This is why we use mobile sensors.

Gathering Knowledge and Brainstorming

Once it is clear how the air moves, what the strong and weak spots are and how the air supply and exhaust systems work exactly, the analysis phase moves to the planning phase. What steps can be taken to promote air throughflow? Does the existing installation have sufficient capacity for this or is a new installation required?

We do not develop such a plan on our own. We are responsible for the maintenance of many buildings and we therefore have a great deal of building data, but we also need other knowledge to be able to develop a comprehensive plan. This is why we hold a brainstorming session with the building’s users and owner, and a Strukton Worksphere team of experts. Our on-site people know exactly how the air handling system works, the users specify the conditions they are looking for and the owner – in case of theatres this often is the municipality – decides on the budget. By combining our knowledge, we develop a custom-made plan. Sometimes, you can achieve a great deal just by adjusting the exhaust system somewhat differently, and sometimes you need an additional air handling system.

Measuring is Knowing

Insight into airflows and an improved ventilation capacity. This in itself is already quite a lot, but it’s not everything. Because it would also be good to know whether the approach works, now and in the future. We monitor this using our building management platform: Strukton PULSE. This system continuously measures the interior climate using sensors and issues a signal when certain critical values are exceeded.
The building manager is provided with a daily performance summary, including any values that have been exceeded, and exactly when this happened. This way, you are able to assess whether there were too many people inside, or whether a certain area requires more ventilation. This makes it possible to implement specifically targeted measures. By monitoring, we therefore ensure the ventilation’s quality over the long-term as well. This way, your building maintains a healthy interior climate over time.
Henk Smit

A simple job? No, it’s anything but that. Improving the air quality in a building is far more complex than meets the eye.

Interested in guaranteed high-quality air in your building?

Ask Henk Smit what Strukton Worksphere can do for you. You can e-mail or call him.

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