Vice President, Dean, Professor
Faculty of Science, Toho University
Toho University is a private university with faculties of natural and life sciences, including the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing. The Faculty of Science successfully visualized CO2 concentrations after installing a new ventilation system for the creation of a safe learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We interviewed Mr. Toshiaki Furuta, vice president and dean of the Faculty of Science, to find out how the verification of ventilation using demonstration devices helped determine the introduction of Asahi Kasei’s solution.
The original intention was not necessarily to introduce Asahi Kasei’s solution. We simply planned to test different solutions and decide which one was appropriate for our needs. The new ventilation system was installed at the Faculty of Science last year. We decided to measure CO2 concentrations to see whether the system worked as required. In our study, we compared CO2 concentration measurement solutions from different companies and rented the demonstration devices for on-site verification tests. Right after we started the verification process, we realized that we needed to know how the values changed in real time, not the absolute values of CO2 concentrations. For example, we needed to understand the changes in CO2 concentrations during lectures. We found that the CO2 concentration increased when students entered the classroom, reached a peak sometime during the 90-minute lecture, remained at a steady state after that, and then decreased when the lecture ended. It would have been impossible to track these changes if we measured CO2 concentrations at long intervals, such as every 1 hour or 30 minutes. What would happen if we measured concentrations at one-minute intervals? This interval allowed us to track the changes in CO2 concentrations almost in real time and thus to see whether the ventilation system was working properly or not working efficiently without fail. Furthermore, we were able to see the difference in the effectiveness of the ventilation system as a result of the number of people in the room, the opening and closing of the windows, and other conditions.
We decided to employ Asahi Kasei’s solution based on the results of our on-site verification. This solution was easy to control centrally, which allowed us to check the effectiveness of the ventilation system every minute. We were able to determine immediately when the ventilation switch was off. There were no negative responses, and almost all faculty members were in favor of using Asahi Kasei’s solution because they wanted to see the CO2 concentration levels.
Valuable information was acquired while operating the solution after the introduction. We found that we should not place too much trust in the ventilation system. Although the value was within the safe range, the CO2 concentration in the lecture room for the entrance examination substantially exceeded the CO2 concentration measured during lectures. We were able to find and quickly handle the unexpected thanks to the visualization of the changes in CO2 concentrations. As an aside, the CO2 concentration increased dramatically during the math section of the entrance examination, which suggested that the respiration rates of the examinees increased because the test was extremely difficult.
The university should not only create a safe environment for students but the students should also learn to voluntarily open windows and doors. To this end, we need to generate interest in CO2 concentrations. We will also encourage them to use the smartphone application that lets them know immediately the CO2 level where they are.
COVID-19 clusters will never occur at the university if we provide all lectures remotely. In some cases, remote learning can enhance the effectiveness of lecture-style instruction. However, experiments and hands-on training unique to the natural sciences and bioscience offer experiences that students can only get in face-to-face settings. We’d like to make effort to prevent a decrease in learning opportunities.
Although we put the highest priority on reliable ventilation, we must continue to create and maintain a safe, comfortable learning environment for students even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. We believe room temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentrations affect the improvement of students’ learning performance.