Balrothery National School
Balrothery National School, as with many schools around both Ireland and the world, needed a solution to help them assess and control the risk around the potential spread of COVID-19 and in the long term, introduce measures to improve the overall indoor air quality. They wanted to approach this in an intelligent manner, to not only carefully plan their improvement strategy but also see whether their measures to reduce risk were effective, and so decided on the data-driven approach that Ambisense advocates for all environmental risk assessment. The school has an array of different room layouts, construction types, and ventilation practices.
Ambisense assessed the school in-depth, after hours, and from these five different locations were chosen for remote monitoring:
- The Teacher Staff Room
- A Learning Support Room
- One of the more modernly built classrooms
- One of the original construction classrooms
- One of the pre-fabricated classrooms at the rear of the campus
The AmbiAir solution measures carbon dioxide levels as a proxy to assess the ventilation in a room, but also the temperature and humidity to monitor the comfort levels and potential half-life of COVID-19, which varies depending on these two factors. International research has found that a warning level of 800ppm (parts per million) of CO2 and an alarm level of 1000ppm should be in place in an indoor space during a pandemic to trigger prompt action to achieve sufficient ventilation. Also, that exposure to levels of CO2 exceeding 1000ppm, over long periods, has a negative impact on the cognitive performance of the students.
Accessing our intelligent software, Ambilytics, which is linked to the physical device as part of the AmbiAir solution, staff could visualise live room air quality parameters, while automated alerts were set up to notify them once a specific level was breached which allowed them to take action.
Over time and depending on the story the data tells, they will form the necessary best practices in the school to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases (e.g. colds and flu) and improve overall air quality throughout the school.
In week 1 they monitored their current habits in the school and the associated data. In the later weeks, they used this data to implement a ‘Plan of Change’ to ensure improved ventilation and optimal comfort levels for the students and staff.
The first full week of monitoring (between 30th of November and the 4th of December) showed several occasions where the CO2 levels exceeded 1000ppm, with a peak above 2500ppm (Fig 1). The classroom was occupied by 29 people; 27 students and 2 teaching staff. Ventilation was supplied by eight fully opened windows, four on each side, which provided natural cross ventilation in the room. There is no mechanical ventilation present in the school.
In-classroom temperatures also dipped as low as 9.8⁰C over this period.
Using the diurnal plot in Ambilytics, it was apparent that on a typical day the school had CO2 peaks exceeding the 1000ppm level between 2pm and 4pm.
Following a discussion between Ambisense and the principal and COVID officer of the school at the end of week 1, an action plan was created to try to lessen CO2 levels, thus improving air quality and decreasing the potential risk of COVID-19 spread while also improving the comfort of all using the space. Windows were to only be opened a crack and the entrance doorways were to be left open at all times.
The second week of monitoring (Fig 4), between 7th and 11th of December showed a significant reduction in CO2, with only a single period breaching the 1000ppm alert level.
Minimum room temperature had also increased by over 2.5⁰C to 12.4⁰C (Fig 5).
Overall, the average CO2 levels were significantly lower with peaks just over 800ppm and well below the 1000ppm alert level (Fig 6).
Using the AmbiAir solution Balrothery National School was able to lessen the potential risk around COVID-19 spread and improve the ventilation and overall classroom conditions, increasing the comfort and well-being of both student and staff.