Cleaner air thanks to smoke, lasers and sensors
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.
Smoke in the TheatreThe 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.
Sensors in OfficesWe 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 BrainstormingOnce 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 KnowingInsight 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.