Schoolroom study looks at air quality

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 08:30 06/10/2012

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Palmerston North students at low-decile schools will be the subjects of a study to see if the air quality in classrooms can be improved using a low-cost method.

Massey University lecturer Mikael Boulic will head a team, consisting of people from both engineering and health fields, that will study the effects of air on five low-decile schools in Palmerston North over two terms in 2013 and 2014.

Mr Boulic was involved in a study into how the environment in homes affected children's health, and said looking at classrooms was a logical step. "It's quite a natural progression, a way to flow to the place where kids are spending the second major part of their lives."

Only three studies had been done in New Zealand on air quality in schools over the past 11 years.

Two of the studies were conducted in Wellington 10 years apart, and both found the air quality to be as bad as that in a sewer, Mr Boulic said.

"We have to do something."

That something will involve installing ridged black polycarbonate sheets just above corrugated iron roofs.

Cool air at the bottom would be heated by the sun, with warm air rising between the roof and polycarbonate to be collected at the top. From there, it would be circulated into a classroom with a fan like those used for air extraction in a kitchen or bathroom.

Two classrooms at each of the five schools could be heated with this air, but only one room at each school would get the air in the first term.

Mr Boulic said nurses from MidCentral Health would monitor the children's levels of bacteria and sick days would also be recorded.

The aim of the project was to find a way to heat classrooms cheaply, and to reduce the number of sick days.

"If they are in school longer, they will learn more," Mr Boulic said.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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