Universiteit Leiden

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A call about: the ventilation of our teaching rooms

Our lecturers are back on campus sooner than the rest of the staff. Away from their screens and in live contact with students: many lecturers are relieved, but some are concerned. Have sufficient steps been taken at our teaching locations? What about ventilation? We spoke to Michel Leenders who, as Director of the Real Estate Directorate, is responsible for our ventilation systems, and Rogier de Bruin, Deputy Director of the University Services Department.

Michel, here at Leiden University we have a number of new buildings but many historical ones too. What does this mean for ventilation during our teaching?

‘All our buildings, old or new, have properly working mechanical ventilation systems in the teaching rooms. You can be sure that these bring in an adequate supply of fresh air throughout. In many buildings this is controlled with CO2 monitors. In others the air conditioning works on the basis of a fixed airflow rate. In addition, the air conditioning in the larger rooms is switched on for an additional hour each morning to ensure there is plenty of fresh air. All the air-conditioning systems give an error if the ventilation system stops working. I know that many staff members still like to open the windows. This really isn’t necessary, but if it is possible in the teaching room and feels like the right thing to do, go ahead and do so. Open windows won’t have a negative effect on the mechanical ventilation. That does its job regardless.’

So the ventilation is working properly. Does this eliminate the risk of infection? 

Rogier: ‘It’s good to realise that ventilation reduces the risk of infection, but doesn’t eliminate it completely. Curbing the virus depends on vaccination and testing. And it is important that we follow the agreements and advice and stay safe together. For instance, we are actively monitoring the maximum number of 75 students in the large teaching rooms. And we never place extra chairs in smaller rooms. But above all make sure others are following the rules and tell them if they are not. Do a free self-test on a regular basis, stay at home if you have symptoms and wear a face mask if you are moving around the buildings. Follow the indicated routes as much as possible and avoid busy places. Ask students to leave the building after the end of a lecture and to make room so others can get to their tutorial or lecture safely.’

If anyone is worried about the work environment, whom can they contact?

Rogier: ‘Talk about it with one another, also if other colleagues or students have concerns. And you can always contact your manager. If you have concerns about a specific room, you can report these to the service desk at that location. They can assess the situation and advise you.’

Do you have any other tips for colleagues?

Rogier: ‘Order self-tests. Just to be sure, we have some at our reception desks, as well as a supply of face masks. But make sure you have everything at home, so you are prepared when you come to the University.’ Michel: ‘If you and your colleagues have questions about your location and would like to discuss these with me directly rather than with the service desk, let me know and we’ll schedule an appointment. I think it’s important to hear and answer any questions that come up!’

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