Getting to grips with poor air
There are times when our commitment to community initiatives draws directly on our industry expertise. Take APL’s ongoing support for Massey University’s ‘Healthy Schools’ project, for instance. Led by Dr Mikael Boulic of the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology (SEAT), the project is about understanding air quality in New Zealand classrooms, how it affects children’s learning, and how to improve it.
Cold weather, closed windows
A lot of classrooms in this country are in older buildings, with poor insulation, heating and ventilation. During winter that becomes a real concern, as respiratory and infectious illnesses keep kids from school or make it harder to study. Ventilation is a particular issue, with lack of fresh air flow in the colder months exposing children to avoidably high levels of respirable pathogens, pollutants, CO2 and humidity.
Let it flow
We first got involved in 2016 when we worked with SEAT on a ‘smart window’ project. Essentially, it involved linking our ‘Ventient’ automated ventilation system to a control box with a sensor measuring CO2, relative humidity and temperature in the classroom. When air quality measurements reached a set threshold, vents opened or closed.
A two-way street
A bit like ventilation, our involvement in the ‘Healthy Schools’ project has seen benefits flow both ways. The research being carried out by Mikael and his team has impacted our approach to window and door development. It has highlighted the need to pay attention to indoor air quality and the important role windows and doors play in maintaining a healthy indoor environment - as well as the traditional focus areas of structure and weather-tightness.
There's more to come
We’ll continue to learn, and we’ll keep supporting Massey’s efforts to make New Zealand’s classrooms healthier places. Recently, Mikael and his team have developed a user-friendly sensor platform that measures the key ingredients of air quality, and that’s now been rolled out in a number of schools around the country. Watch this space.