Reason & context of the assessment framework
Due to the demographic greening of the city of Antwerp, there is an increasing need for facilities such as childcare and schools. In a densely built-up city like Antwerp, free space is scarce and the traffic network dens. Both existing schools and daycare centers and possible new locations for this are often located near roads with heavy traffic and therefore in an area where the air quality is below par. Research has proven that children up to the age of 18 suffer permanent physical damage from prolonged exposure to contaminated air. Hence the need to take measures to combat air pollution and to minimize the harmful effects on sensitive populations.
One measure that the city authorities have already taken is the introduction of the low-emission zone in the city center. Another measure of the city is the application of an assessment framework for the spatial location and design of locations where children stay for a long time. This assessment framework aims to assess new construction and renovation projects for facilities for children in a pragmatic but responsible manner and impose mitigating measures to limit health risks. This assessment is also taken into consideration when determining locations and granting permits for schools and daycare centers.
In zones with high air pollution, the assessment framework may require mitigating measures as a condition for the permit. The use of an air purification system is one of the possible measures that can be imposed. This raises questions about the impact this can have on schools and daycare centers, both infrastructure and financially. After all, the purchase, installation and maintenance of such an air purification system entails an important additional cost. Moreover, there are different air purification systems on the market and it is difficult for a school board or childcare organizer to determine which system is suitable and possible.
To provide financial support, the city has introduced an allowance for air purification infrastructure for existing and new schools and daycare centers that are located in such an air quality zone. A first mandatory step of the grant application procedure is the request for an opinion on the possible air purification systems for the specific buildings or location. InsightAir provides this advice.
Advice on how to improve air quality
The focus of the advice will always be on avoiding exposure inside the school building to contaminants that are generated outside the school building (for example NO2 from traffic). In order to be able to provide well-founded advice, it is necessary to assess the quality of the indoor air as well as the outside air. Air is a complex matter. After all, advice (for example air purification technology or a control measure) to prevent intrusion of contamination from outside will have an influence on the indoor air quality.