Andrew Treacy, Versatile Group MD, discusses the importance of effective heating and ventilation in the school environment, covering regularity compliance as well as delivering comfort and a safe, productive environment.
Building regulations and an ever-increasing emphasis on compliance mean specifying heating and ventilation systems for school buildings can present a major challenge for today’s architects and mechanical designers. In recent years new measures have meant strict new standards on energy efficiency, ventilation, indoor air quality (IAQ) and acoustic control in the education sector.
We know that oxygen is the most vital element for the human body to function correctly so naturally we know that an inadequate supply is likely to have some negative health implications. Therefore, in any indoor environment, a poor heating and ventilation system, especially one that does not supply enough oxygen, will increase the chances of occupants suffering from health-related problems. A large number of people in a confined space over a long period will lead to stale air and an excessive build-up of CO2. This can result in headaches, dizziness, aggression, feelings of lethargy, nausea and a drop in concentration levels. In a school environment, these symptoms can have a devastating effect on the pupil and teacher performance and contribute to higher levels of sickness or absenteeism.
Children spend a significant part of their day inside school buildings and in particular, often in densely-populated classrooms. A fresh, healthy supply of air is essential to help them remain alert and perform to the best of their ability. Installing an effective ventilation system in a building is a fundamental way to reduce carbon dioxide levels, and to remove harmful indoor pollutants to ensure the most productive indoor environment.
The Government’s commitment to education reform means significant opportunities for those serving the sector. However, we must ensure resources are focused on tackling the most important priorities. One such priority is investment in energy-efficient heating and ventilation systems that not only improve educational experience but also help to tackle the sizeable contribution schools make to public sector carbon emissions.
Ventilation in school buildings is addressed in Part F - Ventilation of the Building Regulations, with additional support and guidance available to system designers in Technical Guidance Document TGD-030. While opening a window to increase ventilation may seem like an obvious option, in practice it is rarely the best one, especially if done in isolation to the performance of the overall system. Noise control is also a consideration. During the heating season, heat will escape through the open window resulting in energy loss and there will be an increased security risk. This also exposes children to air pollutants, which can be particularly damaging to their health. Poor ventilation results in high humidity and condensation, which encourages the growth of mould and dust mites, one of the key triggers for asthma.
In most cases, the capital and lifetime costs of air conditioning systems make them an unlikely specification for education establishments. Schools require a ventilation system that will regulate air quality and react automatically to provide more fresh air whenever a room needs it. Such a system must be able to respond quickly enough to deal with a constantly changing indoor climate. For example, throughout the day CO2 levels will rise and fall depending on pupil numbers, time spent in the room and the type of activity taking place.
Oxygen is a Schools Solution that is simply smarter for everyone
OXYGEN is an intelligent and fully controllable heating and ventilation solution that optimises IAQ in an energy-efficient way for an optimal learning environment. It works by combining unique displacement ventilation with an integrated heating system and complete controllability – all of which makes it simply smarter than other options – available on three levels: 1. Optimal ventilation: Unique displacement ventilation ensures optimal indoor air quality
2. Integrated heating (and night time cooling): In-built heating & free cooling solution ensures optimal temperature
3. Complete controllability: Smart system ensures optimal performance and energy efficiency
Typical school case study
Jaga’s oXygen heating and air refreshment was installed in a recently built, two-storey primary school building. Comprising five teaching rooms, a common room and media and editing suites, the new facility is providing pupils and staff with all-in-one energy-efficient heating and ventilation that is also contributing to an improved indoor environment and achieving nZEB.
Twenty-five low water content nZEB radiators incorporating oXygen units have been installed inside the radiators, which introduce fresh air from outside directly into the room. During the winter season this air is pre-heated before distribution. A sensor in each room continuously measures CO2 levels and reacts when they become too high by removing stale air through an exhaust fan. This is then replaced by precisely the right quantity of clean, fresh air from outside. The system only allows the fans to operate when there is a need for fresh air so over-ventilating is avoided and therefore money is not wasted.
Commenting on the specification for the project, Andrew Treacy of Versatile Group said: “As always, we needed to supply a system that was fit for purpose and one that would comply with building regulations. The oXygen system met this challenge with ease but there were also other far-reaching benefits to be had in the form of a healthier indoor climate for all, along with significant energy and cost savings.
“We are committed to achieving the highest standards in environmental sustainable design in the projects we serve so the all ‘round energy-efficiency benefits of the oXygen system strike a real chord with our customers. Our goal is to provide a safe, comfortable setting for pupils and teachers that is conducive to a healthy workplace and learning environment.”
The problems that poor heating and ventilation in a school can bring are endless yet it is something that can be corrected. During this time of concentrated investment in school buildings it is important to pay careful attention to upgrading heating and ventilating systems in Irish schools to deliver not only greater energy-efficiency but also an environment that will assist our children in achieving the highest levels of educational performance.
Register for Versatile's CIBSE & RIBA accredited CPD Webinar "Ventilation in Schools" to explore the topic further.
For additional information or assistance in the specification of effective ventilation in schools/universities/colleges, please contact our HVAC Specialists at 046.902.9444 or email email@example.com.