Keep Your Dorm Room Ventilated

Photo by Ant-Rozetsky.

March 17, 2019

Hello, dear reader! It’s been a little while since my last blog post, and I apologize for the rather inconsistent blog scheduling. Historically, I’ve tried to make a new post every second week or so, and it’s been three weeks since my last one. I think that writing my blog posts while waiting for laundry is a potentially viable plan, since there’s not really enough time to do much else between laundry loads, and the waiting time usually puts me into a somewhat contemplative mood.

Today, I’d like to address the issue of air quality and ventilation in some of University of Waterloo’s dorm rooms. Since this year was my first year here, I’ve been staying in Village 1, one of UWaterloo’s residences. It’s an older building, and the rooms are laid out in a traditional dormitory style. I have my own small room, and share a bathroom and lounge with the rest of my building.

Near the start of the fall term, when I had just arrived in Waterloo and moved into residence, I kept the window to my room open most of the time. It was quite warm, even during the nights, and the air usually had a damp, semi-tropical feel to it which made Waterloo feel like an equatorial country rather than one in Canada. Even with my window open, the temperatures were still a little stifling.

Time flew for me in that first term, and the temperatures dropped fairly quickly, though not as quickly as in the Albertan winter in Red Deer, where I used to live. It started snowing around late November, and I started keeping my window closed most of the time.

Now is probably a good time to mention that the bedrooms in Village 1 have absolutely no ventilation. As far as I can tell, their walls are unmarked by any type of intake or outlet, and when the door is closed, the air gap under it is measured in millimetres. However, I didn’t make too much of it, as I had never considered that a building might not be well oxygenated, figuring that the engineer that designed it must have had such things in mind.

In the end, it was my parents who pointed it out to me one evening, as I was talking with them over the phone. I mentioned that my window pane had quite the amount of condensation forming on it, and father advised I open the window. It was at that moment that everything clicked and I realized that there was no way that I was getting enough fresh air with my window and door closed.

I have noticed that I do get quite a bit drowsier when the windows in my room have been closed for a while, and also don’t sleep as well. I imagine quite a bit of carbon dioxide builds up in a small room if you sleep in it overnight, and then study in it for a few hours, all without opening a window. Some friends I’ve talked to have also mentioned feeling less alert and productive when studying in their rooms with windows closed.

I think it's a little scary that there's no easy way for air to get into my dorm room. One night, I woke up and felt as if I was suffocating—I tried to breathe in, but felt as if whatever air I was getting wasn't quite "working" properly. I'm glad I had the wisdom to go open my window, since I'm not sure what might have happened if I hadn't.

My personal recommendation is to make sure that whatever room you plan to study in is adequately supplied with fresh air, and if living in Village 1, open your window now and then. It may be absolutely frigid outside, but in my opinion, the cold is a less of an issue compared to your mind being affected due to a lack of air.

As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully, your own residence is adequately aerated!

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