The Enemy Of The Classroom

Why does ventilation matter?

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) matters a great deal.

Stale, stuffy and stagnant classrooms are guaranteed to negatively impact on learning. You can’t feel sharp cognitively if there is high carbon dioxide (CO2) stiffing the atmosphere yet walk into many classrooms and you will be greeted by a wall of thick air that is muggy and far from acceptable.

The classroom feels like it needs scrubbing when in many cases all it needs is for someone to open a few windows even by just a few centimetres. For those lucky enough to have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, then then automated control can provide continuous ventilation and avoid ‘dead air’ classrooms.

Inadequate classroom ventilation is common but you won’t get bright and breezy learners if they are drowning in CO2. It’s going to affect their educational attainment and their attendance.

I’m reading Scott Kelly’s book ‘Endurance‘ about a year he spent on the International Space Station and in it he talks about his cognitive function being affected by CO2.

He describes that over the course of a day the level of CO2 will start to rise and has to use Sudafed because “I’ll feel congested, with burning eyes and a mild headache.”

Sounds familiar? We all know that groggy feeling after being in a room with little or zero ventilation. In a classroom packed with people then the atmosphere can quickly get dense.

Classroom air quality should be tip-top for learning but classrooms seem to be the last place to learn in many cases because of high levels of COand poor environmental management.

The Building Regulations, and BB101, specifies a requirement to control the concentration of carbon dioxide in all teaching and learning spaces so that, when measured at seated head height and averaged over the whole day, it does not exceed 1500ppm. It won’t surprise you though that many classrooms exceed this on at least one day in the school week.

Outdoor learning sounds like a solution or at least the ‘In-Out-In’ style of teaching but for most desk-bound students who spend a huge part of their lives indoors, schools have a huge responsibility to ensure the air we all breathe is fit for learning. Sick classrooms won’t produce healthy learners.

The Clever Classrooms report suggests that a carbon dioxide meter is installed in each of our classrooms so that teachers and pupils have a “clearer view to act / correct their environment.”

Moderate increases in COwill result in children and staff who are tired, have headaches or cannot concentrate. Air quality is a huge well being issue that needs far more attention and consideration.

Should we be surprised by this? Not really. A study published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology found that stale cockpit air impairs pilots’ ability to handle manoeuvres. The direct effects of carbon dioxide on human performance cannot be overlooked or ignored.

Raised levels of CO in our school buildings can adversely affect the thinking ability of all those inside.

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