Lower Temperatures and Increased Ventilation Boost Student Performance

Sept. 28, 2006
ASHRAE research confirms correlation between temperature, ventilation, and fewer errors

Along with pencils and paper, increased ventilation is a fundamental necessity for students returning to the classroom this fall, according to research from the Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Research shows that kids learn better in schools with better air quality. An article describing the research is featured in the October issue of the ASHRAE Journal. The research was funded by ASHRAE and conducted in Denmark. A final report is due later in the year.

The research indicates that lowering the temperature and increasing ventilation in classrooms increases student performance by 10 to 20 percent. The students’ performance improved mainly in terms of how quickly they worked and how many errors were made.

“ASHRAE looked at [things like] ‘Is it possible that Johnny can’t read because Johnny can’t breathe?’ ” ASHRAE President Terry Townsend says. “The preliminary results seem to indicate [that] the answer is yes. The study confirms earlier ASHRAE research that increased ventilation rates positively impact productivity in buildings.”

“Environmental conditions in schools have been found to be inadequate and frequently much worse than in office buildings,” says Pawel Wargocki of the University of Denmark. “This study shows the importance of improving air quality in schools so students can have optimal learning conditions.”

Results from the research, once finalized, will be incorporated into ASHRAE technical guidance, used by engineers around the world in designing heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems in all types of buildings.

School officials can take several actions in response to this research to optimize learning conditions for students:

* Visit each classroom on a regular basis, particularly on warmer days, to make sure the air-conditioning system is providing adequate conditions in the room, including acoustical considerations (eliminate a noisy fan). If a unit does not appear to be operating properly, get it inspected by an HVAC professional.

* Develop and adhere to a preventive-maintenance program for all HVAC equipment on-site. This will improve the uptime and performance of all units while also helping to extend their service life.

* Allow and encourage teachers to lower the temperature in the classroom on warmer days if they wish.

* Investigate and implement methods to reduce the heat build-up in classrooms in ways other than HVAC, such a window-shading devices, building-envelope sealing and insulation, or just turning lights off or down when not needed.

* Allow and encourage teachers, if appropriate, to open operable windows in the classroom on milder days so that more outside air can be introduced into the room. Set up procedures for then securing windows at end of day.

* Encourage maintenance staff to replace supply air filters more frequently, particularly during pollen season.

* Investigate the feasibility of introducing more outside air into the classrooms than codes require in an energy-efficient manner with a mechanical engineer.

This information was reprinted with permission from ASHRAE, an international organization of 55,000 persons. ASHRAE fulfills its mission of advancing heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world through research, standards writing, publishing, and continuing education. To find out more, call (800) 527-4723 or visit (www.ashrae.org).

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