Natural ventilation helpful in reducing Covid risk for schools - NIWA

Source: 1News

Good ventilation in schools may be crucial to preventing the spread of Covid-19 when students head back to the classroom on Tuesday. 

Auckland pupils face at least two more weeks away from the classroom.

Creating airflow from simply opening doors and windows may help boost precautions with natural ventilation, according to NIWA. 

Air Quality Scientist Ian Longley says parents can rest assured that opening up classrooms will help protect students while Covid-19 remains in the community. 

He says that in classrooms where opening windows and doors to create airflow isn't an option, turning on a fan will help by circulating air through the room. 

"We know that some Aucklanders are feeling anxious about the return to school for some students next week, but they can feel more confient knowing that opening windows and doors to replace indoor air with fresh air is very effective." 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Wednesday that senior school students in years 11 to 13 will be heading back to school to help prepare for the upcoming exam season.

It's been a long stretch without in-person learning for Auckland students, having to adapt to online classes since August with many stuggling to adapt to the lack of in-person contact. 

Students in those age groups are already eligable to get vaccinated, but now creating good airflow through classrooms will help the prevent the virus spreading. 

"If anyone is infected with Covid-19, virus particles can circulate through the air across the whole room. But build-up of contaminated air is reduced by ventilation." 

Longley added that other systems, such as some air conditioners and filtration systems, may be needed in classrooms that can't improve its natural ventilation. 

"Mechanical ventilation might be needed if a classroom doesn’t have windows that open. But for most New Zealand classrooms in the warmer months, ventilation units are no more effective than natural ventilation," he said.

Introducing carbon dioxide monitoring systems, which measure how stuffy a room is, may also be helpful for indicating how good air circulation is in the classroom. 

However, Longley says natural ventilation may be the best way to improve air flow in the classroom, helping prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

"While using a CO2 monitor can give valuable insights into the indoor air quality, humans are also good at sensing how fresh the air is in a room we walk into and whether there’s some air flow."