Monday, December 13, 2021

AIRAH is sharing a new resource to improve ventilation in schools and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“All of us have the right to a good education,” says AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH. “And every child should have the opportunity to go to a school where they can thrive.

“A key part of this is a school’s physical environment. According to a recent study, from pre-school to the end of Year 12, children spend about a quarter of their waking lives in classrooms . It is vital that these learning spaces are healthy ones.

“Unfortunately, the ventilation in some Australian classrooms is often substandard, leading to poor air quality. This not only affects students’ ability to concentrate, but also leads to greater transmission of airborne diseases such as COVID-19.”

With community transmission still high in some parts of Australia, schools are emerging as a setting of concern. The Victorian Department of Health’s latest data shows that about 75 per cent of COVID-19 clusters have occurred at schools and early-childhood education centres.

“AIRAH wants schools to have information that will help ensure their learning spaces are well ventilated,” says Gleeson, “which is why we are making these resources freely available. Following this guidance will help give children a safe and healthy environment where they can receive the education they deserve.”

Authored by Brad Prezant, Affil.AIRAH, and reviewed by experts in ventilation and indoor air quality, the guide offers readers a better understanding of airborne transmission and building ventilation systems found in Australian schools. It also provides advice about building a strategy for different facilities.

It is intended as a resource both for schools, and for mechanical engineering designers and maintenance engineers.

Prezant is a certified occupational hygienist, public health scientist and epidemiology expert who has 35 years’ experience assessing indoor environments. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has been working with schools to assess and improve their ventilation strategies – and has seen first-hand the challenges they face.

“School administrators and teachers are concerned about the safety of children and staff,” says Prezant. “At the same time, they are being bombarded by vendors selling a myriad of products, some of which may improve the health of occupants, and some of which may increase the risk of infection. Many of the solutions offered are expensive.

“This document, written from an evidence-based public-health perspective, is intended to address the many questions that school administrators have, and provide appropriate guidance for creating a school setting where the focus can be on education rather than the building itself.”

The new guide is available free from the AIRAH website.