Hardly any concerns reported about air quality in UM buildings

Hardly any concerns reported about air quality in UM buildings

“In terms of technical solutions, we did everything we could, now it comes down to behaviour”

22-11-2021

MAASTRICHT. The COVID-19 figures are shooting up, but it is still allowed for dozens of people to share one space in the university buildings. Does this result in extra concerns about ventilation? Ronald Wilmes, head of real estate at Maastricht University, sees no indication of that at the moment. Hardly any questions or reports on air quality have reached the Service Point of Facility Services. “The information posters with ventilation instructions seem to work well.”

In September, the Service Point was assigned the task of acting as a low-threshold facility where students and employees could voice their concerns about the quality of air. “The few e-mails that have reached us are mainly about basic questions such as ‘How far do I have to open my window,’” says Wilmes. “That is: questions from people who want to check if they are doing everything right. We have had no real reports of poor air quality or ventilation problems.”

For the many classrooms and other spaces fitted with mechanical ventilation, that is not so surprising. “All installations were checked last year and they meet all requirements,” says Wilmes.

It is a different story for the rooms without such a system –where the air must be refreshed by opening windows and doors. These can be found in particular in the older buildings in the city centre, where they account for about half of the total number of rooms. A recent survey, carried out by RuimteOK by order of education minister Slob, showed that this kind of ‘natural’ ventilating at schools was the weakest performer.

Should people at the UM be worried about this? Wilmes reckons that they need not. “If the space is used properly, the air quality need not be worse than in spaces with mechanical ventilation.” Although no actual air quality measurements are carried out here, unlike in rooms with ventilation installations. “That would only be a snapshot, which could provide a false sense of safety. The quality of air varies there a lot, depending on how many windows and doors are open, for how long, and how far.”

What does proper use of these spaces entail? Ensure at any rate that there is always at least a door open or a window is slightly ajar, says Wilmes. “And try to ‘purge’ the room every once in a while, let’s say every other hour or after a tutorial or meeting. That means: open up all the doors and windows against each other for ten minutes, so that the air refreshes.”

He admits that this leads to colder work spaces, with the lower outdoor temperatures that we have now. Still, he thinks that people will nevertheless continue to act wisely and ventilate. “They understand that we have done as much as we can in terms of technical solutions and that it now comes down to behaviour. The building managers and information posters have gotten through to the employees and students. That doesn’t just apply to ventilation, but of course also for adequate social distancing and working from home when possible. When all that goes well, we can create a safe situation.”

If you want to submit a question or report about air quality, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

Photo: Observant

Categories: News and background
Tags: air quality,covid-19,ventilation,university buildings

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