03 May 2024

How Contractors Can Ensure the Air in Schools is Helping Students’ Development

By Elta

03 May 2024


The negative impact of poor air quality on young people has been shown through quantifiable data, but how can contractors working on schools protect students from the very air they breathe indoors? To help gain clarity, David Millward, our Group Product Manager at will explain how contractors can ensure the air in schools is helping students’ development instead of hindering it.

Thanks to new studies, we are learning what the long-term medical impacts of extended exposure to air pollution are. For children and young individuals, these include the potential to have underdeveloped lungs, asthma, higher chances of developing pneumonia, and an increased likelihood of developing lung cancer as an adult. This is now a problem schools – and their contractors – are facing.

A study led by researchers from Evelina London Children’s Hospital and King’s College London (KCL) found that of 147 new school locations built between 2017 and 2025, 86% exceeded air quality targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The conclusion of this study suggested that air quality surrounding newly built schools was ‘alarmingly poor’.

With such a devastating impact, it is vital that contractors help schools take action to remove pollution from the air through ventilation measures. The main pollution particles that need to be filtered out include carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) which have the capability to enter the bloodstream when breathed in.

To help remove as much air pollution as possible, here are our top tips.


1.Understand the scale of the issue by installing air monitoring equipment

By understanding the true extent of the issue at hand, contractors working on schools can take proactive action to filter the air that students and faculty breathe. The best way to do this is by installing monitoring equipment which can paint a live picture of the current pollutants in the atmosphere.

Those working on schools in rural areas may believe they do not need to worry about air pollution but unfortunately this is not the case. While the particulate matter may vary between urban and rural environments, those living in the latter may need to consider agricultural chemicals in the air.

Here at Elta, we supply air monitoring systems through our AirThings range including sensors and monitors that can assess the air for particulate matter as well as measure CO₂, light, humidity and radon.

Room sensors, such as those supplied by Elta, can test and monitor the air quality within classrooms, halls, and all other indoor school spaces by simply attaching them to fan speed controllers or EC fans. They measure the amount of CO₂ in the air, the temperature, and the relative humidity. Any ventilation modifications that are required can be guided by these readings.


2. Create a plan of action

Once it’s clear which pollutants are in the building’s air, contractors can create a plan of action to filter air pollution. The best way to do this is through a specialised ventilation system that can filter air.

When going down this route, it is best to consult a ventilation specialist to ensure that all angles are discussed. Alongside managing air pollution, other aspects need to be taken into consideration such as the building’s humidity and potential damp issues. These too can have a damaging impact on young people and could be mitigated with better ventilation.


3. Check against Building Regulations and BB 101

Complying with building regulations is vital when introducing new systems to manage issues such as air pollution. Approved Document F – Ventilation – Volume 2 of the Building Regulations gives guidance about air quality monitoring in buildings other than dwellings which can help decision makers.

Alongside this, contractors should follow guidance given in the UK Government’s Building Bulletin, BB 101, to understand the framework for ventilation in schools and recommended performance levels to comply with UK regulations.


4. Use correctly specified ventilation systems to process and filter the air

With all ventilation solutions, it is important to consider the design properties of the system prior to specification. This is where small yet significant long-term energy gains, and subsequently cost savings, can be made.

Building ventilation systems often operate at constant or pre-determined ventilation rates regardless of the number of people within the location. Ventilation rates are normally based on maximum occupancy levels, resulting in consequent energy wastage. This is not only due to the fan operation, but also includes the energy used to condition the air for heating and cooling modes.

Through MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) solutions such as Elta Fans’ energy recovery units, the amount of airflow can instead be controlled to suit occupancy levels and delivered through demand-controlled ventilation (DCV). DCV is recognised as a reliable method of ensuring a building is ventilated cost effectively, while maximising indoor air quality.


5. Have a robust maintenance schedule to keep the system working at full capacity

Once the system is in place, it is important not to presume it will work at optimum performance over time. Like most engineered systems, ventilation needs regular maintenance to ensure all of the components are functioning properly. This can include changing filters, as they get blocked over time, and cleaning to ensure that all air pollutants in the atmosphere are being correctly managed.

With this advice in mind, contractors can actively work at reducing the harmful impact of air pollution on young people in school.


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