Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Classrooms at the University of the Basque Country through a User-Informed Natural Ventilation Demonstrator

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 6;19(21):14560. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192114560.


The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a renewed interest in indoor air quality to limit viral spread. In the case of educational spaces, due to the high concentration of people and the fact that most of the existing buildings do not have any mechanical ventilation system, the different administrations have established natural ventilation protocols to guarantee an air quality that reduces risk of contagion by the SARS-CoV-2 virus after the return to the classrooms. Many of the initial protocols established a ventilation pattern that opted for continuous or intermittent ventilation to varying degrees of intensity. This study, carried out on a university campus in Spain, analyses the performance of natural ventilation activated through the information provided by monitoring and visualisation of real-time data. In order to carry out this analysis, a experiment was set up where a preliminary study of ventilation without providing information to the users was carried out, which was then compared with the result of providing live feedback to the occupants of two classrooms and an administration office in different periods of 2020, 2021 and 2022. In the administration office, a CO2-concentration-based method was applied retrospectively to assess the risk of airborne infection. This experience has served as a basis to establish a route for user-informed improvement of air quality in educational spaces in general through low-cost systems that allow a rational use of natural ventilation while helping maintain an adequate compromise between IAQ, comfort and energy consumption, without having to resort to mechanical ventilation systems.

Keywords: COVID-19; airborne infection risk; human-building interaction; indoor air quality (IAQ); monitoring; natural ventilation; retrospective analysis; schools; thermal comfort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Ventilation / methods

Grants and funding

This research was funded under the title “Proyecto Piloto Sobre Calidad del Aire en Espacios Interiores Universitarios” in the CBL program 2020–2021 and 2021–2022, promoted by the Directorate of Sustainability, Vice-Rectorate for Innovation and Social Commitment of the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU).