Already well before the corona crisis we were working on improving air quality in school buildings with the NUOVO Scholengroep [School Group]. We are using the Strukton PULSE sensor and data technology for this purpose. Marcel Brenninkmeijer, Client Manager at Strukton Worksphere, tells us about the approach and the results.

How comfortable and healthy are our classrooms for our students? What can we do to acquire better insight into this issue? And what can we do to improve air quality? The NUOVO Scholengroep approached us with these questions last year. Its ambition: to have a large number of schools meet the Class B criteria of the ‘Frisse Scholenbeleid’ [Fresh Schools policy]. Because not every school had installed the building management systems needed to gain insight into technical comfort, we started looking for a solution. We proposed conducting measurements over a period of three years in different classrooms of ten schools that are part of the NUOVO Scholengroep. The purpose was to acquire insight into temperature, CO2 concentration and relative humidity. Effective from September 2019 the classrooms were equipped with our sensors to measure these values.

Real-time insight

The measurement data from these sensors is supplied to our data platform Strukton PULSE. With this software we analyse the building data and convert it into comprehensible information. Not only we, but NUOVO too can view this information. This way, for each school, they can see the status of the temperature, CO2 concentration, humidity and the Adaptive Temperature Limit Value (ATG) in real-time. An overview of the figures for the past week, for example, can be obtained at the press of a button. PULSE is ISO 27001-certified, which safeguards the information’s security. Unfortunately, I regularly come across other solutions that do not sufficiently safeguard data security.
Marcel Brenninkmeijer, Strukton Worksphere
We see, for each school, the status of the temperature, CO2 concentration, humidity and the Adaptive Temperature Limit Value (ATG) in real-time.

Marcel Brenninkmeijer

Data measurements

Our measurements were halted when the schools were forced to close due the coronavirus. While we were able to continue taking measurements, an empty classroom does not yield any relevant data. As a result, our plan to obtain a full year of measurements came to naught. Pity, because we were well on our way. At several schools we had already obtained a better interior climate with minor adjustments. But we were unable to continue building on this without any fresh data.

Historical data offers head start

When the new school year started, the measurements we had accumulated between September to March proved to be invaluable. The Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reminded schools of the need to adhere to the directives of the Dutch Building Decree, and the ‘Frisse Scholenbeleid’ had been in effect since 2015. Although the old Dutch Building Decree does not impose sufficient ventilation-related requirements, it did motivate many schools to take action. Effective from the end of the summer holidays, schools throughout the country suddenly devoted full attention to ventilating their classrooms.

Thanks to our earlier measurements, we already know what the situation is in many classrooms as far as temperature, humidity and CO2 concentration are concerned. The fact that we have this information for the period September to March is very useful. This enables us to compare the data that is currently becoming available with the data for the same period last year. The fact that it is in the ‘colder’ period of the year is also fortuitous. This is because in the spring and the autumn all you need to do is open a window to quickly reduce the temperature or the CO2 concentration. But when it becomes colder outside, things become much more difficult. You then need other kinds of intervention to achieve these objectives. 

Implementing the right measures

What can you do to come up with effective solutions for your school buildings? At the present time we especially try to keep a good grip on the situation together with the schools, so that we continue doing the right things. Conceiving of solutions is not as easy as it may sound. First of all, the solution must be technically feasible. What can you do without having to install a completely new climate control system? The danger is that a school quickly implements a number of measures without having a solid plan in place on which to base its interventions. This does not solve the problems, but makes them manageable over the short term. It will then be very likely that you will have to make other adjustments at a later point in time. In the worse case scenario, you will have made a useless investment that will cost you a lot of extra money. For example, schools are required to comply with the Mandatory List of Energy Conservation Measures (EML). If they do not immediately incorporate these requirements now, they may need to reinvest at a later point in time. This is something that we certainly try to avoid.

 

 

Students in classroom

From analysis to solution

Together with the NUOVO Scholengroep we developed a clear step-by-step plan. We first prepared an analysis of the schools for which we had historical data. We used this information to classify the schools into three risk groups: low, medium and high. Next, we developed a plan for the high-risk schools. What can we do to lower the risk and at what cost. This plan was recently approved by the schoolboard, enabling us to further explore the solutions in-depth. On the basis of all available information, we are now developing a scheme with specific solutions designed to improve the CO2 climate at the high-risk schools.

We are directly incorporating the EML to avoid making adjustments now that will be negated at a later point in time due to essential new investments. In the meantime, we continue working on reducing the CO2 concentrations in schools that are less urgent. The NUOVO Scholengroep has contracted us to install our sensor technology in five other schools, so that we can provide greater insight into the temperature, CO2, humidity and ATG here as well.

Energy and comfort on the basis of a single integrated platform

A possible next step may be to create a link with the energy management systems of these schools. In the summer the classrooms may be a little warmer and in the winter a little cooler. This affects the amount of energy consumed. We are currently measuring the energy consumption at NUOVO as well. These meters are also connected to the PULSE platform. Thanks to this data we can compare various information flows and prepare analyses. While plans to move in this direction had already been developed, they were relegated to the background due to the coronavirus. We hope to find the right balance in the near future: comfortable and energy efficient schools with an optimal learning environment and health.

Long-term plans

The corona crisis requires quick action to guarantee safety in schools. Yet, haste is a poor counsellor. We too are aware of the pressure, but without a comprehensive and future-proof plan you simply shift the problem elsewhere and you could even increase its magnitude. If you want to reduce CO2 in classrooms, you must take a long-term perspective. The ‘Frisse Scholenbeleid’ and the EML are of essential importance in this regard. As is finding the balance between what a school is able to invest over the short-term and what the municipality or government will be contributing. Close cooperation between installers and schools is essential to be able to achieve the targeted – future-proof – objectives.
Marcel Brenninkmeijer

What can you do to come up with effective solutions for your school buildings? With sensor measurements and data analysis we can prepare a comprehensive and future-proof plan together with you.

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