The Gap Cubbyhouse Montessori in Brisbane has created a safer, healthier and more productive childcare learning environment with Internet of Things (IoT) technology from Australian companies Thinxtra and Zeplin.
The solution comprises indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring devices to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, proven to be the best proxy for indoor COVID-19 transmission risk.
The Gap Montessori is a family-owned long day care centre that caters to children between the ages of six weeks to six years.
With extensive background in engineering and scientific methodology, Sue-Ling Lau, director of The Gap Cubbyhouse Montessori, understood the importance of maintaining healthy IAQ for children, their families, and staff.
Once the centre reopened after pandemic lockdowns, Ling Lau recognised the need for an IAQ monitoring solution to reduce the risk of transmission of airborne diseases like COVID-19, and boost the overall health and wellbeing of the Montessori community at The Gap.
“All childcare centres face the same threat of virus transmission, and by knowing the CO2 levels in a room you can not only make informed decisions to minimise COVID-19 transmission but all airborne diseases,” she said.
“It wasn’t enough to just open the windows and get air purifiers; these are crucial, but we needed to understand the baseline of air quality in all parts of the centre.”
Ling Lau partnered with Brisbane-based Zeplin to implement its IAQ Monitoring Solution, comprising IoT sensors that measure CO2, temperature, and humidity levels.
The devices are battery-powered, with a life of up to five years and no ongoing maintenance requirements. The data recorded by the sensors is transmitted in real time over Thinxtra’s national 0G Network, and available to view in Zeplin’s remotely accessible, cloud-based application.
“Since I don’t always work on-site, I wanted a way to see the CO2 levels remotely, and that’s where the Zeplin and Thinxtra system came in,” Ling Lau said.
“It proved a very attractive option as it created visibility into air quality across all indoor spaces, with the ability to access data at any time, plus the benefit of live notifications.”
The Gap Montessori installed IAQ monitoring devices across the venue’s classrooms, offices, and corridors, each with sensors that provide reliable data through Zeplin’s mobile and web applications.
The solution was fully functional within hours, and did not require any dedicated cabling to be implemented.
The centre receives alerts when maximum threshold limits for IAQ are reached, allowing Ling to advise employees working on-site to change the conditions in each respective room.
“Having real-time data on CO2 levels, humidity, and temperature available helps us take the right measures to maintain the health and wellbeing of the children and staff. It lets us know when to open windows, move outside, and even ensure children are hydrated and dressed appropriately in hotter months,” she said.
“Poor ventilation also has an impact on cognitive ability and therefore productivity, so lowering CO2 levels means no one feels tired or groggy, giving us a more optimal learning environment for children.
“It has been quite eye-opening to see the CO2 threshold alerts come through. We did not realise how high CO2 levels could get even in a low-density suburb like The Gap.
“Initially, we were getting alerts several times per day but now need less with procedures in place to increase airflow. Our trigger point is 800 parts per million (ppm) – which is an acceptable level of CO2. Complaints of drowsiness and poor air quality start once CO2 exceeds 1000ppm,” Ling Lau said.
“These levels were surprisingly common at our centre when we first installed the monitors.
“Parents have told me they feel very reassured we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at our childcare centre, with daily deep cleaning of our facilities, weekly rapid antigen testing for staff, and now the CO2 monitors.”
Zeplin director, Justin Appi, said he discussed setting thresholds with Ling Lau based on recommended standards, giving The Gap Cubbyhouse a solution that triggers alerts based on their preferred attributes which can be adjusted any time.
“Alongside opening windows, using air purifiers, and turning air conditioners to fresh air intake, CO2 monitors are a must-have in day care centres and schools,” he said.
Thinxtra CEO, Nicholas Lambrou, said when it comes to reducing the spread of airborne viruses, it’s incredibly difficult to control something that cannot be seen.
“With Zeplin and Thinxtra, The Gap Montessori has a solution which can monitor indoor air quality that helps the day care centre provide a healthier and safer environment for children and staff; they are able to breathe cleaner air and perform better in well-ventilated spaces that have lowered risks of airborne virus transmission,” Lambrou said.