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6 Best Ways to Improve Air Quality in Classrooms

Indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Wellness is the most effective solution to alleviate this problem. The problem of indoor air pollution is not trivial. The excessive concentration of pollutants in the air can cause numerous diseases, mainly respiratory such as lung cancer, but also cardiovascular, digestive, and neurological and, according to the world health organization, is the main cause of some 2 million deaths per year.

Here are some of the most important measures:

6 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

1. Measure Air Pollution Levels

It is difficult to control what is not known. That is why one of the first measures to implement will always be the measurement of the levels of pollutants in interior spaces. Among the pollutants to be measured are formaldehyde, VOCs (Volatile Organic Components or VOCs), carbon monoxide, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone or radon. Temperature and humidity must also be controlled since they can lead to the appearance of pathogens such as mold, which causes many respiratory diseases and best today.

2. Optimize Ventilation

The renewal of indoor air allows getting rid of pollutants whose source is indoors through the introduction of air from outside. External pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), bacteria, mold, or smoke can be avoided through the use of high-efficiency filters (EU7 or its American equivalent MERV13 and higher) in systems ventilation. Through ventilation, the concentration of humidity is also avoided and with it condensation problems that cause pathogens such as mold and deterioration of materials.

However, the ventilation volume must be optimized according to the needs of each building, since a greater air exchange also entails a greater energy demand that can be limited through the installation of heat recovery units (this is an issue that requires an exclusive post and will be covered later). For those spaces that do not have a mechanical ventilation system in those cities where the quality of the outside air is a problem, it is recommended to inquire about the quality of the outside air before opening the windows, as pollution levels vary from one day to another.

3. Eradicate Tobacco from Buildings

The health problems caused by the inhalation of tobacco smoke are well known, both for smokers and for non-smokers who coexist with the former in spaces where smoking is allowed. For optimal indoor air quality, tobacco must be eradicated not only inside buildings but also in the vicinity of entrances. Due to the chimney effect in multi-story buildings, due to pressure variation, the air enters the lower floors and leaves the building on the upper floors. To avoid the penetration of tobacco smoke, it is important that smoking is not allowed within 7.5 meters of the entrances to the building. In addition, due to the relatively high degree of air infiltration between the different spaces in the same building, it is important that the anti-smoking policy affects the entire building.

4. Use Healthy Cleaning Products

The most common cleaning products often contain chemicals that are harmful to health. The use of non-toxic and hypoallergenic cleaning products and materials helps to improve indoor air quality and reduce the appearance of pests, environmental allergens and unpleasant odors. Additionally, a cleaning protocol should be established that dictates how often and how each surface should be cleaned. For surfaces with a high frequency of contact (doorknobs, switches, etc.) it is recommended to use advanced cleaning methods for the elimination of bacteria such as ultraviolet light devices.

5. Use healthy construction materials and methods

There are many construction materials that release harmful substances into the air throughout their useful life. These include wood-based products that sometimes contain formaldehyde; sealants, adhesives, and paints that often contain VOCs; or carpets and rugs that accumulate dust, subsequently emitted as particulate matter. These same materials can be found in elements of furniture and buildings. It is advisable to evaluate the composition of the materials prior to use and include certified products with a sustainability seal.

In addition, the method of construction can also be optimized to increase future indoor air quality: establishing a specific materials installation protocol to minimize the impregnation of porous materials with substances that can later be released; sealing the air entry and exit points of ventilation and air conditioning systems during construction to prevent contaminants from entering them; and carrying out an exhaustive sealing of the partition elements and other compartmental elements to prevent the infiltration of poorer quality air from the adjacent spaces.

6. Install advanced air purification systems

Some spaces, due to their nature that requires excellent air quality (hospitals, laboratories, etc.), or due to circumstances that lead to the existence of excessive pollutants (proximity to busy roads, factories, etc.) may require the installation of advanced air purification devices. These devices can be incorporated into the ventilation system in those spaces that have a mechanical ventilation system, or placed as independent elements. The main methods used for air purification include activated carbon and active polarization filters, ultraviolet radiation systems, and photocatalytic oxidation systems.