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Pupils and teachers will help the city of Helsinki in their strive for better indoor air quality

Press release   •   Dec 02, 2019 10:40 UTC

Pupils and teachers in Helsinki shall continuously rate the quality of the schools' indoor air. The feedback should then be compared with the collected measurement data to evaluate if today's standards for properties need to be changed.

We spend close to 90% of our time indoors. In our homes, in workplaces, in schools, in shops, etc. Although we know what negative impact poor quality of indoor air can have on human health, it is a matter that many takes for granted. Maybe it’s time to question today’s standards? The city of Helsinki is on its way to find out.

In Helsinki, as in many cities around the world, the influence of indoor air on human health has been in focus for a long time. Especially when it comes to school air and its impact on children.

As part of reaching its sustainability goals, the City of Helsinki has connected over 1,700 of its public buildings to a data platform. The result is that they can measure their buildings' energy and water consumption, CO2 emissions, temperature, ventilation, air quality, etc. Thanks to now having access to real-time data for indoor air in schools, they have taken the fight for better indoor air to the next level, starting a project based on the question - What happens if you combine the measured values with actually giving people the opportunity to give feedback on how they experience indoor air?

” We building owners need to define, measure and predict the conditions of the premises in a way that the indoor climate is as good as possible for the users.” Says Marianna Tuomainen, Leading expert at Helsinki Urban Environment Division “In our new feedback interface, we can now observe both the feedback data, concerning various indoor climate conditions and the measured data correlating with this condition. For example, when viewing how many consider the indoor air stuffy, we can compare the results to the measured room temperature, or CO2-concentration, or even TVOC-concentration. This expands our understanding of which aspects of the indoor environment affect the feeling of stuffiness."

The project starts with four elementary schools and the idea is then to implement the results to other buildings. The schools have been given tablets where students and staff regularly rate how they experience the indoor air in the various premises. The data is collected in the portal and then compared with the collected values relating to indoor air; indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity, particle content, CO2 and TVOC (total volatile organic compounds).

A building is simply not static

” Just because air quality meets today's standards, it is not certain that people think it is good.” says Leo Hakkarainen, project manager at Nuuka Solutions. “In our platform, we can already see that the experience varies greatly between different days and in different rooms. A building is simply not static. So, to assume that the system delivers optimal air all the time is not enough. To be able to make people feel good, we must make sure that both systems and standards are adapted and can react faster. Whether at a school, hospital or in a store.”

The City of Helsinki’s idea is that the more data is collected, the more they will learn. And then in extension, machine learning (AI) can be applied to allow the buildings to automatically react and adapt to both external and internal factors. For example, temporarily higher particle content in the outside air, or reduced occupancy in combination with lowered outdoor temperature, could result in rapidly adapted circulation of air in the building.

Energy-saving can counteract air quality

The UN estimates that buildings account for 39% of global energy consumption. Therefore, energy efficiency is a must in order to achieve climate goals. But simply reducing energy consumption without at the same time controlling the effect can risk air quality. That is why several of the environmental certifications, such as the US Green Building Council's LEED, are recognizing and awarding work at the same time to improve the indoor climate.

” In the past, it was considered to be enough to review the buildings' systems once a year to keep track of consumption, air quality, etc." says Leo Hakkarainen at Nuuka Solutions" But we can now see that this is not enough at all. Without having connected the buildings, you do not have a real-time view of the situation in the buildings. And without that control, it is difficult to reach the sustainability goals and be able to really offer optimal conditions in the buildings.”

Thanks to the data from their connected buildings, the City of Helsinki has also been able to start several other projects. Smarter utilization of public premises and using buildings for balancing the electricity grid are just some of their projects to achieve a better and more sustainable city for its residents. The expected results from the Indoor air project will be monitored and evaluated during 2020 & 2021.

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For more information regarding the digitization project for the city of Helsinki contact Olli Parkkonen, at Nuuka solutions +358 50 494 1584 olli.parkkonen@nuukasolutions.fi

Starting date for the indoor air quality project: August 2019

Schools participating: 

Keinutien Primary School. 5,780 m2 Build 1978, refurbished 2017.

Myllypuro Primary School Alatalo. 3,324 m2. Build 1966, refurbished 20111-2013

Kaisaniemi Primary School. 3,815 m2. Build 1924, Refurbished 2016-2017

Meritalo Vocational School. 13,931 m2. Build 1974, refurbished 2013-2014.

Data being collected: Outdoor temperature, Indoor temperature, CO2, Humidity, Particle content, VOC Volatile organic compounds

Smart building data platform: Nuuka Solutions

Nuuka Solutions is a global software company for large property owners, cities and retail. We develop and deliver a realtime data platform for smart, sustainable buildings. The result is increased energy efficiency, reduces costs, automated sustainability reporting and the opportunity for better user experience. Our hardware-independent platform collects, analyzes and controls all real-time data and integrates with all traditional real estate systems, IoT sensors or cloud solutions. The Nuuka platform is implemented in 3000 buildings in six countries.

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