According to a UNSW Environmental study, some Australian classrooms are recording levels four times higher than the recommended levels of carbon dioxide and should be addressed as per European standards of indoor air quality monitoring.
Some schools recorded carbon dioxide levels up to 4000ppm in classrooms, which is four times the recommended level.
“Under these conditions, both the teacher and the students are sleepy and tired and their learning capacity is reduced tremendously,” Scientia Professor Mat Santamouris, the Anita Lawrence Chair in High Performance Architecture said.
Installing advanced and hybrid ventilation systems to remove the pollutants from Australian classrooms should be introduced to improve learning and health benefits in schools.
“There are high level of pollutants in classrooms due to the number of people inside classrooms, who breathe out carbon dioxide and bring in biological contaminants,” he said.
Dust particles and solvents from things like whiteboard markers can also contribute to poor IAQ levels.
“Schools are not always clean, they have a lot of dust. Worse, students enter with their dirty shoes and they step over everything that results in a high indoor concentration of dust. The other problem is biological contamination and if you don’t have proper ventilation, the microbes stay in the environment. So once one child is sick, everyone is sick.“
Professor Santamouris says the level of pollutants inside a classroom can continue to rise in bad weather or with air conditioning in the warmer months.
“If you close the door because it is a hot day and you want to turn the air-conditioning on without ventilation, or it is raining outside, or if the building is next to a main road, then the level of pollutants inside the room continue to go up.”
“(IAQ) has an international standard that applies all over the world and is Australian law, but unfortunately, this is not the case in our schools, because most schools rely on natural ventilation, so they open windows,” he said.
“If you have fine weather, this is ok. But this is not ok if you live next to a busy road or, in about a third of the time, the weather is bad and you need to close the windows and doors.”
He said ventilation and a hybrid ventilation system that filters the air was much more beneficial than air conditioning in schools.
“Air-conditioning in schools is a disaster, especially with split systems, as they do not provide ventilation,” he said.
“If you don’t have ventilation, it will result in terrible indoor pollution and high biological contamination. Air-conditioning without ventilation for schools is the worst possible solution you can imagine.”