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Overview

Feeling at ease in a healthy environment

People spend at least two thirds of their lives in buildings – whether it's to go to work, enjoy free time or simply live. The quality of our indoor spaces therefore plays an important role for our health. Concentration and performance are just as dependent on this as health and comfort. Even though the perception of a space is different for each individual, certain criteria can be used to assess the quality of a living environment, including comfort, light conditions, sources of noise, design and material properties. Added to this are external factors such as the climate, orientation of the building and the level of sunlight – these all influence our perception, as do interior aspects such as the type of use and level of activity.

Comfort is perceived in different ways by different people, but it can still be measured. The quality of the ambient air is a result of the balance between temperature, humidity and air flow. When it comes to the air temperature, the ratio of room volume to enclosing space (floor, wall and ceiling) is just as important as the proportion of open and closed spaces (windows and door opening). After all, a compact space affects the surface temperature and thereby the room quality in a different way to a larger, taller room. It may be the case here that the surface temperature will need to be raised artificially in order to create the same comfort levels (recommended ambient air temperature: 20-22°C and wall surface temperature: 17-19°C).

When warm and cold air is exchanged due to large variations in temperature, the difference between the ambient air temperature and internal surface temperature creates air movement, which can quickly become an uncomfortable draft if the difference is too great. Heating and cooling systems regulate the indoor climate wherever the natural limits are reached. Intelligent concepts integrate this technology so that it is largely concealed, reducing the technical solutions to an acceptable minimum. The relative humidity also depends on the room temperature. Warm air absorbs more water vapour than cold air, and so the relative humidity level should remain between 45-55%.

 

The exchange of air also has an impact on comfort levels. We actively influence air quality through activities like cooking, exercise or even intensive work situations in rooms that are too small. On average, adults inhale and exhale up to 16,000 litres of fresh air each day. If you remove the fresh air, the rising levels of CO2 lead to loss in concentration and tiredness, and in extreme cases, sick building syndrome. The latest version of DIN 1946-6:2019-12 – Part  6: Ventilation for residential buildings, regulates the general basic conditions and the requirements for the layout, design, commissioning, handover and maintenance.

 

However, the users themselves remain the weakest link. Incorrect use of ventilation is just as counterproductive as the installation of oversized technical equipment. There are three types of ventilation for regulating the air supply: manual, individual control, the installation of automated incoming and outgoing air, or a hybrid system of natural and automatic ventilation.

The benefit of integrating decentralised ventilation solutions in windows and façades is clear. A self-regulating window ventilator can be almost completely concealed in the outer frame. This requires neither installation space in the storey height nor equipment space and is also decentralised and can thereby be controlled individually.

The room acoustics contribute to the comfort and usability of a room. This is of particular significance for rooms which are used by lots of people at the same time or those which are expected to fulfil a certain purpose, for example peace and quiet in bedrooms. The noise levels, use of materials, surfaces and integrative measures in a room all need to be checked during the design phase.

Both specifiers and developers of windows and façades are faced with the challenge of finding new solutions for reducing noise when designing building envelopes – in the form of sound reduction from outside to inside and reducing the spread of sound in the building. A range of different window solutions is available to meet the various requirements for sound reduction when a window is open. For example, the Schüco AWS 90 AC.SI sound reduction window provides a high level of sound reduction with simultaneous natural ventilation when the window is tilted open. Thanks to the sound-absorbing material in the window profiles, the incoming air is fed through profile chambers which absorb the sound energy. Sound reduction values of up to 31 dB can therefore be achieved, which ensures a peaceful sleep at night with good air quality.

Ventilation without noise pollution has become a hot topic for buildings in urban environments. The Schüco VentoFrame Asonic window ventilator has been designed in partnership with Renson and is a ventilation system which combines a natural fresh air supply with a high level of acoustic comfort. A sound level difference of up to 42 dB can be achieved during ventilation thanks to the tightly sealed construction made from sound-reducing materials.

Ventilation without noise pollution has become a hot topic for buildings in urban environments. The Schüco VentoFrame Asonic window ventilator has been designed in partnership with Renson and is a ventilation system which combines a natural fresh air supply with a high level of acoustic comfort. A sound level difference of up to 42 dB can be achieved during ventilation thanks to the tightly sealed construction made from sound-reducing materials.

A key element of healthy building is the use of materials and surface finishes that are low in harmful substances. The introduction of the EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) to document the environmental properties of a product has created the necessary transparency for future developments. This includes knowledge of the composition of a product across its entire life cycle. Correct use is also relevant here with regard to the exclusion of harmful substances, smells and emissions.

However, changing health conditions, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, are also focusing very specific attention on the subject of health. Hygiene requirements continue to rise, especially in interior areas of hospitals, nursing homes, nurseries and public buildings. The research project KARMIN (which stands for Krankenhaus, Architektur, Mikrobiom und Infektion – hospital, architecture, microbiome and infection), a sub-project of highly innovative research group InfectControl 2020 funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is showing that architecture and design can make an important contribution to hygiene in hospitals. Schüco is an industry partner in this project, alongside a consortium of commercial enterprises and affiliated partners such as the Technical University of Braunschweig, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Jena University Hospital and metal processing company Röhl GmbH.

Hospital infections and multi-resistant germs, against which antibiotics cannot help, are becoming an increasing problem in clinics. Bacteria can spread quickly, especially in rooms with multiple beds, and pose an acute risk to patients. For this reason, there have long been calls to isolate patients infected with multi-resistant germs in single rooms. However, the exclusive use of single-bed rooms entails many disadvantages and higher costs. To this end, the team from the Technical University of Braunschweig has now designed a prototype of an infection-resistant double room with separate wet rooms. This pioneering project aims to answer two key questions: firstly, the impact that the architecture of a hospital has on hygiene and secondly, whether double rooms provide sufficient protection against infection for patients.

Schüco SmartActive, an antimicrobial surface finish, was developed as a solution to the issue of multi-resistant germs and can be used on both handles and profiles. High-purity microsilver particles incorporated in the surface finish, which are free of nano particles and do not harm human skin, can kill off any germs which come into contact with the surface, thereby preventing their further proliferation. Consequently, simply replacing the handle can make a huge difference to warding off contaminants while maintaining the same ease of operation.

Small solutions to everyday functions can also improve the indoor climate and health. Fittings components can be installed as little helpers to support day-to-day ventilation. Everyone has very different ventilation requirements. While some people require maximum air flow with a large ventilation cross section, others can be sensitive to drafts. The new AWS 114 vent retaining catches for projected top-hung windows allow you to adjust the opening angle to meet individual needs and set the stroke between 88 mm and 259 mm. The vent retaining catch prevents the window from swinging open when it is windy and thereby the dynamic loading of the fittings, resulting in higher levels of safety.

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