We might not be able to see pollution, but we know that it can cause significant long-term respiratory problems, including asthma and lung and heart-related conditions. And, as children in particular are susceptible to the harmful impact of toxic air, schools will be keen to provide the most healthy environment possible in and around their buildings.
Attention has centred on one group of polluting gases in particular: nitrogen oxides, or NOx. In London, which offers the most detailed statistics, more than 800 nurseries, schools and educational establishments are in areas of the capital with unsafe pollution levels. 34% of London’s state nursery schools, nearly 20% of its primary schools and 18% of its secondaries are within 150 metres of areas where levels of NOx breach the European Union (EU) legal limit of 40 mg/m3 of air.
As most UK cities and towns currently exceed the guidelines, what action can schools take to prevent children from being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution?
Road traffic has been identified as a major contributor of polluting emissions. But buildings – and heating systems in particular – also typically emit NOx emissions. So for schools, ensuring that the heating system in their buildings is both energy-efficient and low NOx is a practical, effective step towards improved air quality.
When replacing old or inefficient boilers in older buildings, condensing boilers are an acknowledged quick win to considerable energy and emission savings in the region of 30%
Many UK schools rely on commercial boiler plant for their heating. But, different types of boilers achieve varying performance levels - and their age and efficiency will also affect their operation. Condensing boilers are the most efficient, with the latest models achieving gross efficiencies of up to 98%, minimum CO2 emissions and ultra-low NOx levels at or below 40mg/kWh. As a result, they meet all legislative requirements for cleaner, greener heating in new schools. When replacing old or inefficient boilers in older buildings, condensing boilers are an acknowledged quick win to considerable energy and emission savings in the region of 30%. The Carbon Trust estimates that heating can account for nearly 60% of a school’s total energy costs. So, there’s a strong financial as well as environmental argument for upgrading to condensing boilers. The rapid financial payback and significant reduction in operational costs from a relatively low initial outlay is particularly appealing given today’s tighter budgets.
Also worth bearing in mind is the imminent legislative stick. At least initially, all EU initiatives are expected to remain in place in the UK post Brexit. So, September 2018 will see new EU mandatory NOx requirements come into force for space heaters up to and including 400kW. The Ecodesign of the Energy-related Products Directive (ErP) will enforce maximum NOx emissions of 56mg/kWh for gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) boilers and 120mg/kWh for oil-fired boilers on new build and refurbishment projects. Boilers like the Remeha range, engineered to meet low NOx criteria with levels at or below 40mg/kWh, are therefore futureproof to the 2018 ErP NOx legislation. At the same time, they achieve the highest Class 6 rating of the European Standard EN 15502 Pt 1 2015 and qualify for the maximum three points available in Pol 2 of the sustainable building assessment scheme BREEAM.
And, then there’s indoor air quality. With their low greenhouse gas emissions and proven reliability, condensing boilers also contribute to a healthier, more productive indoor learning environment. A study by the World Green Building Council found that people’s performance can fall on average by 6% if a room is too hot and 4% if too cold. Maintaining optimum internal temperatures for staff and students will improve comfort conditions and encourage greater productivity. Heating needs vary throughout the day, so adding the appropriate controls will ensure a comfortable temperature at all times. Forward-thinking manufacturers have introduced condensing boilers with easily set and adjusted time and temperature controls supplied as standard that puts control into the hands of the school’s maintenance team. This will not only help schools optimise comfort and productivity in classrooms but will reduce energy use, lowering bills and cutting emissions.
Schools across the country are already benefitting from the greater reliability, lower bills and reduced emissions that advanced condensing technology delivers. With high-efficiency, low NOx condensing boilers, schools have the opportunity to provide pupils with cleaner air and a more sustainable, productive environment – leading the next generation by example.
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