October 19, 2022

How Does Poor Ventilation Affect Learning?

There are many factors that determine the safety and health of the students in the school environment. These include bullying, cleanliness and lack of proper facilities. One which often gets overlooked is poor ventilation and air quality in schools. Studies have ranked poor air quality in schools as one of the leading risks to public health. The problem is mainly caused by the fact that over 90% of students' learning time is spent indoors. In this post, we take a closer look at ventilation in learning facilities to answer two primary questions, “how does it impact learning?” and “what are the best strategies for improving it?”


The Main Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality in Schools 

Poor air quality in schools can result from a wide range of sources. Here are some of the most common: 

  • Combustion and fuel-burning appliances. 
  • Furnishing materials used on wooden products. 
  • Painting on the wall and surfaces. 
  • Building materials. 
  • Mould infestation.
  • Cleaning and maintenance products. 
  • Personal care products. 
  • Excess moisture. 
  • Outdoor sources, such as dust and emissions from the vehicles. 
  • Pollen materials in the neighbourhood. 

Impacts of Poor Ventilation on Learning in School

Poor ventilation in schools results in low air quality, which further causes respiratory ailments and allergies. Ultimately, these are reflected in poor school attendance and deteriorating academic performance. Let's take a closer look at some of these problems. 

Air Pollution Results in Inferior Memory Performance 

In one of the studies done by Healthy Affairs, the results indicated that high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide could decline memory function by about 7.37%. This can be a major problem for students because being able to remember what they learn is paramount for success. Whether it is mathematics or literature, a decline in memory performance could easily set kids up for failure. Imagine children being unable to remember important formulas in chemistry or mathematics? 

Low Concentration 

Poor ventilation of the indoor environment, especially in classrooms, can result in the accumulation of high levels of carbon dioxide. Other sources of carbon dioxide can be the school kitchen, vehicles driving in the neighbourhood, and fires. No matter the source of emission, a high concentration of carbon dioxide is known to cause problems like headaches and drowsiness. 

For learners, it is very difficult to concentrate when there are high levels of carbon dioxide. This means that it is almost impossible to think strategically. Although it might not be dangerous immediately, it is likely to result in underperformance in school. This is why every school's management should regularly monitor air quality in classrooms and make adjustments to the facility's ventilation. 

Exam Performance is Poor in Classrooms with Poor Ventilation

The ultimate goal of taking children to school is to build knowledge and skills that are needed for success in their careers. To know the progress and determine the ability of learners, they are subjected to regular tests and exams. If the ventilation of the school classrooms is poor, there is a high risk of the learners suffering from low grades. 

According to a study done by the University of Tulsa, students who learn in rooms with poor air quality get approximately 74% points less in exams compared to those in well-ventilated spaces. This implies that it could be pretty challenging for students to realise their dreams. If all schools have poor ventilation, this could mean that the country is losing a full generation. 

 Higher Levels of School Absenteeism  

One of the primary causes of absenteeism in schools is the problem of asthma. About three of every thirty students miss school because of asthma per year. The challenge is that asthma is very challenging to cure and can be triggered by short-term or long-term exposure to pollutants. Because low-quality air contains particles such as smoke and other irritants, it can easily trigger asthma, affecting the child physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

The ultimate impact of asthma is increased absenteeism. This absenteeism is likely to result in poor performance in exams. Remember that asthma could also result in other complications, from pneumonia to depression, which could also result in absenteeism. 

How to Improve Ventilation in Schools

As we have demonstrated, poor ventilation is a major cause of low air quality and poor performance. The lovely thing is that there are several things that you can do to improve ventilation and air quality. Here are the common ones: 

  • Survey the Pollutants in Your School 

We must say that you cannot reduce or plan to eliminate what you do not know. For example, are the classrooms polluted by smoke or dust? To determine this, it is prudent to carry out a comprehensive air quality assessment. This will also be crucial in determining the most preferred method of addressing it. 

For air assessment to be more effective, consider making it progressive. For example, you can open spreadsheets for recording the levels of pollutants in the school per week. Then, review it on a monthly basis to check the levels and whether the selected method of ventilation is working.  

  • Create an Indoor Air Quality Management System 

Once you have established the level of air pollutants, craft a clear plan for their reduction. This is very important because it will define the measures that should be adopted to ensure the school is in top condition. For example, you might commit to keeping dust, carbon dioxide, and other common pollutants to a specific level. Then, define the role that every department in your school has to play. 

Another crucial part of the plan is to make air quality part of the schools' focus on safety, health, and sustainability. This will be crucial in telling other stakeholders that you are working hard to improve the planet. You will be surprised to realise that a lot of stakeholders want to come and be part of the good initiatives. For example, local authorities, UNEP, and Climate Fresk, among other entities, can come in handy to help your school achieve its core objectives.

  • Keep the Doors and Windows Open 

If your school is located in areas with no or low external pollutants, improving ventilation might be as simple as opening doors and windows. In most cases, indoors have 3-5 times more contaminants compared to outdoors. Therefore, opening the doors and windows allows the air to move and get replaced immediately. Note that this method works best in summer or for schools that are in hot tropical areas. 

During winter or for schools in the highlands, simply opening the door might not work. Instead, you should consider alternative methods, such as automated HVAC systems. Also, it might not work if the outdoor environment is more polluted compared to indoor. 

  • Practice Good Housekeeping 

Some of the common pollutants in the air can be removed through good housekeeping. One of the most important methods of good housekeeping is to keep the school clean. By clearing dust from the surfaces and vacuuming the rags, you can clear most of the pollutants. The lovely thing about this method is that it is pretty simple, affordable, and effective. 

  • Install Air Purifiers 

Air purifiers are designed to help clean the air getting into selected rooms by removing airborne particulates. The good thing about air purifiers is that they are designed to work in both small and large rooms. Remember that you have to ensure there are no other areas, such as door edges or openings, which can allow non-purified air to get through. 

  • Plant Vegetation Around the School 

Plant biology shows that plants take in carbon dioxide, which is used in the process of photosynthesis, and release oxygen as a by-product. Therefore, adding plants in schools can act as a good way to improve air quality because it will take up carbon dioxide. In addition, plants will be very useful in enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the school. 

  • Install CONTINEWM® in Your HVAC System 

One of the most important facilities when it comes to improving air quality is the HVAC system of your school. The HVAC helps to ensure that the air temperature is within the recommended range through cooling or heating. It is also very important in improving the quality of air by clearing off the particulates. You can improve this efficiency by installing CONTINEWM® in the front part of the heat exchanger

CONTINEWM® is an eco-friendly method of improving the performance of your HVAC system. It works by clearing electrostatic charges that build up on the HVAC system when it is running. CONTINEWM® is made of a special ceramic that naturally emits specific infrared rays. The infrared emission from the natural ceramic material of CONTINEWM® nets helps break water droplets into finer clusters. This distributes the temperature more evenly across the room and reduces energy consumption. It also helps to eliminate bad odours from the air getting into the air conditioning system and school rooms. The unique infrared rays found in CONTINEWM® nets decompose the sources of odours like sweat, protein and lipids. They have a permanent electrode that continually emits a small current to provide antibiotic functions. Here are some of the benefits of using CONTINEWM® to improve indoor air quality: 

  1. Helps to improve the efficiency of the air conditioning system. 
  2. Cuts down the power use of the HVAC system, it reduces AC bills by a whooping 25% on average.
  3. Clears odours and particles from the air to improve air quality. 
  4. It is cheap. 
  5. Only takes 2 mins to install and is very easy to maintain. 
  6. Can act as an important part of your greening efforts. 

There are already hundreds of schools, hotels, warehouses and offices implementing this cost-saving, CO2 reduction technology in all their air conditioning units in Singapore and abroad. CONTINEWM® was indeed proven to be an effective and earth-friendly way for better air quality in buildings and facilities.

This post has highlighted some of the best strategies that you should employ to improve air quality in school. Remember that there is no one fits all solution when it comes to sustainability projects. Check for one or several options and implement them to not only help improve the air quality in schools but also the academic performance of learners.