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‘Childhood asthma and allergies are big issues in Spain’

In a conversation with Fatima de la Cerna of Climate Control Middle East, Tomás Higuero, the CEO of Madrid-based Aire Limpio, shares his observations on the health of school environments

| | May 10, 2015 | 2:37 pm
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Could you share with us your company’s involvement in schools? Have you been involved in IEQ projects or initiatives that concern or target learning environments? 

Tomás Higuero, CEO of Madrid-based Aire Limpio

Tomás Higuero, CEO of Madrid-based Aire Limpio

As a company, we provide ventilation and have been involved in the construction of schools, kindergartens and universities that meet required levels of filtration and ventilation. Those schools have gone through indoor air quality (IAQ) surveys, which measure particulate matter, CO2, VOCs, fungi, bacteria and other airborne chemical and microbial contaminants, with the results proving that the newly built schools have better IEQ than those built before 2008.

What happened in 2008? Why is that year significant?

In 2008, construction codes in Spain were modified in accordance with the EU schedule. It was a general change in Europe, and it included modifications to RITE or Reglamento de Instalaciones Térmicas en los Edificios (Spain’s regulation on indoor heating and air conditioning systems). The modified RITE made it mandatory to introduce mechanical ventilation and air filtration in every new or refurbished school.

How has the change in regulation affected school environments in Spain? And how would you assess the country’s general situation with regard to IEQ in schools?

The situation is improving. The changes greatly improved indoor air quality in the new schools. Before 2008, there was no air filtration, and ventilation was a concept associated only with open windows.

What IEQ hazards have plagued, or are plaguing, schools in Spain?

Like I mentioned, schools traditionally were ventilated just by opening the windows; thus, outside pollutants were able to easily enter the schools, to be breathed in by students. In Spain, especially in cities, the quality of outdoor air is not good. This means that an open window introduces particulate matter and chemical pollutants into the classroom. Schools in small villages, meanwhile, are challenged by allergens during springtime. It is no wonder that childhood asthma and allergies are big issues in the country.

Could you share with us your opinion on the importance of maintaining good IEQ in schools? How would you describe the relationship between IEQ and student health and performance?

I think there is no doubt that good IEQ, and good IAQ in particular, is necessary because kids are especially vulnerable to pollutants. Different studies and researches have established that poor IEQ in schools has a direct impact on student performance, absenteeism and health. Some experts even link unhealthy IEQ with increased risk of attention-deficit disorder.

What are your aspirations for Spain, in relation to its schools?

In our opinion, Spain has gone a long way in providing schools with an above-average IEQ level. But with the country still recovering from the recession, the biggest challenge for the future lies in the retrofitting or refurbishment of the schools built before 2008. And my aspirations, I would say, also lies there. I cannot stress enough the importance of addressing the issue because those buildings lack proper ventilation and filtration.

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