Buildings have a lot to live up to nowadays. There’s a lot of pressure pushing owners to make their facilities more efficient, healthier and in some cases ecologically sustainable, and to meet those needs, many are turning to smart technologies. However, while these conversations often gravitate around commercial and residential spaces, there is much to be said about how smart tech can improve educational spaces.
In these cases, the same needs that face most other facilities are being grappled with by schools. And this is often exacerbated by the fact that a great deal of schools is running off very old systems, contributing to inefficiencies and environmental hazards for those within. For example, the Let’s Go Zero campaign states that 60% of the energy being used by schools is wasted out-of-hours. In England alone, energy constitutes for the second largest expenditures in the budget, behind staffing.
The health and safety of students and staff is also a core concern, but thankfully, the same technologies that can generate greater energy efficiency and improve student performance are also the ones that help keep everyone safe and healthy.
Smart HVAC Systems
While many schools are making steps with air purifiers and cleaners, experts say that the best solution for improving indoor air quality remains proper ventilation and filtration (either HEPA or MRV13 filters). For many facilities, these functions are performed by their HVAC system, but in spaces using aging or poorly maintained systems, this can do more harm than good.
Upgrading to a smart HVAC would not only provide more insight into air quality and offer immediate response for alerts, but it would also greatly increase operational efficiency by running only when needed. Most smart systems nowadays even provide real-time updates to facility managers for constant monitoring of environmental conditions and needed maintenance.
Students could also potentially see an increase in academic performance overall because of the cleaner air, according to a recent Harvard study.
Understanding of how light impacts performance has progressed significantly over the years. For instance, study conducted by Kazan State University in 2015 demonstrating the influence of different lighting types on visual performance found there was a 20% improvement in the performance of the tasks speed during tests where the color temperature was 5800K in comparison to fluorescent lighting.
A 2011 study in the Netherlands found that increasing illuminance levels in schools at certain times of day and changing color temperatures in lights indicated a positive influence on pupils’ concentration. Researchers found students were more alert and scored higher on their tests when they were in a classroom with 6500K lighting.
Aside from its use in helping people get a better night’s sleep, human-centric lighting, also known as circadian lighting, helps better regulate bodily functions. Exposure to brighter, cooler color temperatures causes the human body to think it is mid-day, the time at which it is most alert and active. Thus, in schools where wall-to-wall glass classrooms are not an option, human-centric lighting can be used to keep students performing at their best.
Smart Sensors, Everywhere
The idea of smart sensors goes together with the aforementioned technologies. Imagine a sensor like Orro, which can detect the amount of light in a room, being used to adjust the artificial lighting to compensate on say, a rainy day or a night class. Or, how it can ensure lights only turn on when people are in a space, streamlining electricity use in lighting.
The same could be said about any number of sensors. Motion sensors would prevent wasteful cooling and heating in empty or low utilized space. Smart IoT sensors can monitor electricity, gas and water, offering more insight into areas where wastage or health issues may crop up.
Combining these with control systems that utilize AI and machine learning then open schools up to have the building make necessary changes and decisions on its own, passively saving energy and water and contributing to a significantly healthier environment for students and faculty.