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Ventilation in buildings

Last modified on 19-07-2022
We want everyone to be able to work and study safely in UvA buildings. By paying attention to the ventilation in our buildings, we help to improve air quality.
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The quality of indoor air partly determines the quality of our study and working environment. Therefore, we opt for a structural approach to assessing the air quality. Various factors play a role in this, including the age and use of a building and the way in which the indoor air circulates.

Facility Services has assessed all buildings

Rooms have been tested, following the ventilation guidelines of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Where the standards cannot be guaranteed, additional measures have been taken. Where necessary, information on how to use the room can be found at the door.

  • The safe rooms are open for use. 
  • Changes have been implemented for some rooms, such as specifying a maximum number of people that may use it. In some rooms only one person is permitted to work at a time. 
  • In some rooms, we are taking additional measures. This will always be indicated in the room or at the door.  
  • Follow the recommendations for windows: it is better for some windows to remain closed, while others can be opened if you like. 
  • In situations where it is unsafe to recirculate the indoor air, we have switched off the recirculation system. This may make some rooms hotter or colder than usual. 
  • Some rooms currently cannot be used because they do not have proper ventilation.  

How does ventilation work? 

Ventilation is the constant renewal of the air (24 hours a day). It involves outside air continuously replacing the indoor air, which becomes polluted by moisture, gases and possibly also pathogens. Ventilation can take place in two ways: 

  1. Natural ventilation: fresh air enters from outside by opening windows and doors, through air vents, and through gaps around doors and windows, while polluted air is drawn out the same way. 
  2. Mechanical ventilation, i.e. a ventilation system: fresh air from outside enters through an air conditioning unit, while polluted air is drawn out the same way. 

How does recirculation of indoor air work? 

When indoor air is recirculated, the air circulates through a room or building without the addition of fresh air from outside. The RIVM distinguishes between two forms of recirculation. 

1. From room to room – the air takes a longer route through the building. 

The air conditioning system in UvA buildings involves central air recirculation at building level. Research has shown that this does not pose a risk. 

2. From person to person – the air takes a shorter route within a room. 

Some UvA buildings have this type of recirculation at the room level. In some rooms, the recirculation system is still switched on. Provided that we ventilate properly (in other words, letting in sufficient fresh air from outside and thoroughly extracting the polluted air), this does not create a risk to health.  

In situations where recirculating the air would be unsafe, we have shut off or limited the recirculation. While this may make a room hotter or colder than you are used to, the temperature is not a reflection of how well the room is ventilated. If the availability of ventilation through the intake of fresh outside air is limited, a sign by the entrance to the room will indicate how many people are allowed in the room. If you stick to this maximum, the room will be properly ventilated and there is no risk. 

Are proper ventilation measures in place in our buildings?  

Yes: 

  • In the older buildings, ventilation sometimes takes the form of natural ventilation: fresh air from outside enters the building through windows and doors, while polluted air is drawn out the same way. 
  • In the newer buildings, fresh air from outside is drawn inside by means of an air conditioning unit and the polluted air is extracted. Facility Services monitors all rooms to make sure the UvA is able to meet the minimal ventilation requirements set by the RIVM. As a result, we have proper ventilation in all rooms, including in the rooms where you attend lectures or tutorials. 

It is stuffy and hot in this room; is the ventilation working properly? 

The indoor climate in a room may sometimes feel unpleasant, but ventilation and indoor climate are not the same thing. Ventilation has to do with the inflow of fresh air and the extraction of polluted air. To prevent air flows from circulating, we sometimes turn off the recirculation of the air conditioning system in a given room. This has a negative effect on the indoor climate, making it a bit too warm and potentially stuffy. Nevertheless, the ventilation in the room will still work properly.  

Is it advisable to open a window?  

  • If there is a sign by the entrance to a room indicating that you may open a window, please feel free to do so.  
  • If you do not see a sign, leave the windows closed to avoid interfering with the ventilation system.  

May I use a tabletop fan? 

  • If you are in a room by yourself, 
    you are free to use a tabletop fan. 
  • If there are multiple people with you in a room, 
    do not use a tabletop fan. The fan creates a risk of air flowing from you to another person or vice versa. 

Questions or complaints regarding ventilation? 

Please contact the FS Service Desk. We give top priority to resolving ventilation problems.  
T +31 (0)20 595 1403 
E servicedesk-fs@uva.nl 
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Facility Services

Facility Services arranges various facilities on campus. For example, you can go there for questions about the student card, reserving rooms or facilities related to events.

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