Energy controls that can help monitor the wellbeing of students.

The wellbeing of students is a primary concern taken seriously by all universities.

First class educational facilities will enable students to flourish, but emotional, medical, and environmental needs are just as important.

For those with a duty of care, personal interaction provides the chance to assess a student’s mindset and if necessary, intervene should there be signs for concern.

But when students spend more time in their rooms, as recently during the pandemic, or in normal circumstances if contact time is only a few hours per week, signals can go unnoticed.

A heating control system, designed to prevent energy from being used unnecessarily, is an unlikely place to start looking for help in assessing a student’s wellbeing, but its monitoring capacity is extremely useful. The most basic information the system communicates is that the occupant is interacting with the control unit and therefore in the room and moving around.

But interpretation of data that shows levels of CO2, Humidity, decibels, and light provides a representation of the room’s environmental conditions. Excessive amounts of any of these are unconducive to study, comfortable living, and wellbeing.

With this control system, if limits are breached, alerts are generated. Alternatively, if there are concerns, a specific room can be checked, remotely, via a web-based portal and a hypothesis created of the room’s conditions and the occupant’s interaction with the system.

This insight means an evidence-based decision can be made on the appropriateness of visiting the room to check if all is OK.

Adrian Barber from Prefect Controls commented. “This level of information means welfare staff are equipped to be both proactive and reactive. Before knocking on a door, they are far better informed.”

These three scenarios show how this can work in practice:

a) Student ’A’ has missed a couple of lectures and their tutor has a concern about their absence. Student Welfare is contacted who view the room data. The PIR has detected movement, therefore the room is occupied. Normal rates of CO2 confirm this. However, light levels are lower than would be expected, suggesting the occupant may not have drawn the blinds. Temperature was adjusted 6 times over the last 24 hours.

It’s decided to contact the student. They answer and explain they have been unwell and stayed in bed for a couple of days.

b) An Energy Manager, carrying out a periodic review of their system, notices the boost button for heating in room 202D has been pressed repeatedly. Contact is made and it transpires the occupant is an overseas student and is finding the British climate inclement!

It’s agreed to alter the heating profile, by raising the Setback temperature, for a few weeks until the occupant acclimatises.

c) An Accommodation Manager receives an email alert for decibel levels that have exceeded the acceptable limit in a flat on the fourth floor. Simultaneously, a complaint is lodged from the third floor regarding sleep interruption due to noise from a flat above. On the system the manager can see that: excessive noise occurred between 11pm and 4am; Notably high levels of CO2; The regular opening and closing of the kitchen window; and the light level in the three adjacent rooms was uncharacteristic for this time.

The most likely explanation – a party where attendees may have been smoking. They will investigate further by paying a visit to the floor.

These scenarios demonstrate the usefulness of room data.

Without being intrusive, those concerned with student wellbeing, gain greater insight to environmental conditions in a room, and are better prepared when carrying out their duty of care.