Realising the vision

Updating BB101 to deliver the original vision

Posted on 02/01/12

It is 2005, BB101 has been launched and we are looking forward to a new era of education. School buildings will be built which are wonderful learning environments, which provide appropriate amounts of fresh air, which keep occupants comfortable temperature-wise and which ensure that the buildings are energy efficient.

It is now 2011 and how have we done? Well, a mixed bag of results is probably the correct judgement. In terms of temperature regulation, there are still examples of buildings which overheat in summer. Sometimes this is because the buildings ended up having more heat load than was originally intended. In other cases it is because the ventilation rates provided were just not enough. It is really important that the industry provides the right amount of ventilation area if the building is naturally ventilated. Larger vent areas do cost more because there is more physical equipment or more opening window area - but unless we do what the models ask us to, we'll end up with buildings which overheat. At Breathing Buildings we launched the online design tool a year ago to help designers ensure they get the areas right for summer - it has been heartening to see so many people using it. The comments we get from end-users are positive.

However, it is not just the summertime conditions which can provide designers and users with problems - the wintertime conditions can also be problematic. In fact, our experience is that the winter conditions can be the ones that hurt us most when a design is flawed. Firstly, if there is inadequate automation and control, classrooms will be under-ventilated. I was horrified to learn only last month that one system which has been used in 24 schools was found to remain in the closed position for 80% of the time in winter! The "system" clearly is not providing the minimum ventilation needed for winter. Needless to say, it is not a Breathing Buildings system which was being highlighted. The observation made by one of the delegates at the CIBSE Natural Ventilation Group meeting on 4 Oct in London where the research was presented was that if the high level dampers had been opened, then occupants may have been subjected to cold draughts.

So, the second problem lies with pre-heating of fresh air in winter. Martin Liddament gave a great talk at the same CIBSE meeting explaining that from a heating perspective and energy balance, classrooms should basically run for free for external temperatures above ~6C. I agree - there is typically enough heat generated by the people, lights and IT to eliminate the need for heating until external temperatures fall below 6C.

The ventilation guidelines for schools are being revised right now. Fortunately, it looks as though the new guidelines will mandate that ventilation systems need to be provided which not only ensure minimum rates of ventilation are provided in winter, but that they are designed to do so without causing cold draughts. The guidelines will also state that pre-heating of air needs to be done in an energy efficient way. This means that there will be more thought about just when heating will actually be used, which of course in turn should result in lower energy schools.

So, as we enter 2012, perhaps now we should all live the dream… school buildings will be built which are wonderful learning environments, which provide appropriate amounts of fresh air, which keep occupants comfortable temperature-wise and which ensure that the buildings are energy efficient. I look forward to more buildings adopting the Breathing Buildings e-stack mixing ventilation approach for winter, to help move us towards low energy schools, and of course working with us to size the overall ventilation system properly with so that we have lovely cool summer conditions too.



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