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Shock ventilation in the darkroom

From Nora Eilers

We’re sitting in the self-proclaimed living room of SchwuZ, whose name refers to a travesty icon – the Pepsi Boston Bar. A wide variety of events take place in this room, from drag shows, karaoke nights, dark room bar nights to panel discussions. Such a diverse use of space demands a well thought out ventilation concept. However, there are no windows, so how to provide a breath of fresh air? COMo is a project of the Technologiestiftung Berlin, which aims to use sensors to help operators:inside public indoor spaces improve their indoor air. The sensors measure the carbon dioxide concentration in the room and make it visually visible on the COMo platform. This gives operators the opportunity to find out about the quality of their indoor air and to provide a supply of fresh air as needed. COMo aims to help people feel comfortable and reduce possible pathogens in the air. SchwuZ has been part of our project since the beginning of April 2022, so we think it’s time to bring some air into the darkness and find out how the operators:inside use our two CO2 sensors. In an interview with Marcel Weber, one of the two managing directors, we find out how committed he is to ensuring high-quality indoor air.

Foyer of the Pepsi Boston Bar at SchwuZ Queer Club Berlin

As soon as you enter a room, you are greeted by the indoor air. How important is good indoor air to SchwuZ?
Good and pleasant indoor air is a major concern for me, especially from the perspective of a managing director. SchwuZ is a safe space where everyone should feel safe and secure. People also pay money for their admission, so we want to make their stay as pleasant as possible – for me, that also includes good indoor air.

It’s immediately apparent that this topic is very close to your heart! Is air quality also an important topic for you as a private person?
Even as a private person, I naturally have many points of contact with the topic of indoor air, I think it’s the same for all of us, even if we’re often not aware of it. The crux of the matter is that air quality is something we can’t see. For example, we don’t know how much particulate matter is actually surrounding us. I ride my bike to work every day and sometimes, of course, I can feel that some days I breathe less well than others. That’s how my body signals to me that the ambient air is bad. But of course, indoor air also plays an important role for me. In our case, the cigarette smoke from the neighbor’s apartment came into our own apartment via the balcony – that’s why we also privately bought an air purifier.

Has the pandemic once again sharpened your focus on good indoor air?
SchwuZ was already paying attention to good air quality before the pandemic. I think crises lead to a focus on things that are already in a bad way. Experts call this the “burning glass effect. At the same time, crises are also an accelerator to finally take a closer look at certain topics that simply can’t be ignored any longer. One of the big issues of our time is, of course, the climate crisis. We will spend more and more time indoors because it is too hot outside or the air quality is too poor – a well thought-out indoor air concept should therefore definitely be worked on.

Indoor air concerns us all! How does the SchwuZ team work together on air quality?
For many employees, the issue of indoor air was not a big deal at the beginning. But now I have gained a few comrades-in-arms who themselves strongly insist on continuously improving the indoor air. This also supports me particularly in the planning together with the owners of the building in which the SchwuZ is located. When we moved in, we didn’t have the opportunity to exert any influence ourselves, but fortunately that has now changed, and we want to make active use of this privilege. We are trying to think directly about concepts for better indoor air. In this project
COMo also gave us a lot of support in this endeavor, as we were able to present real data and conduct the discussion on a scientific basis.

Are there other examples where COMo was able to provide you with concrete added value?
We recently had an event where it could be determined afterwards that the CO2 readings shot up within a very short time. I was Night Manager that night and it turned out that a fog machine was being tried out that night. However, the data clearly shows that this is not a good idea in this space under the current conditions and we need to rethink the fog machine. We also purchased an additional room air system for the Pepsi Boston Bar. COMo was very helpful in showing the data in its visualized form to the employees and thus explaining our decision to them in a way that was as comprehensible as possible.

So the measured values support you in discussions with both the owners and the employees?
Exactly, the measured values form a fantastic basis for discussion. We can use data to show facts – even over a longer period of time. Since we use the various rooms in very different ways – from parties to salsa classes – it helps us enormously to understand the situation in each case.
it helps us enormously to be able to assess the respective situation not just by feeling, but on the basis of real measured values. In this way, a feeling becomes reality. I would like to emphasize, however, that unfortunately not all clubs have this possibility. However, we actively use this privilege. Our goal is to become the first climate-neutral club in Berlin!

Marcel Weber and our sensor are one heart and one soul.

How do indoor air and sustainability relate to each other for you?
These topics are clearly interwoven. The activist:inside group “the last generation” sticks to the streets. These are the same young people who are coming to our club now after the pandemic – the target audience has changed, people are also actively demanding good air quality. Especially as a queer club, it has always been a big concern for us to be in close exchange with our community. We take feedback and constructive criticism very seriously and are constantly working to ensure that this place remains a safe space where everyone feels at ease. My maxim at the beginning was: no danger to life and limb, cold beer and good sound – now a high-quality space has also been added. By this I mean not only an aesthetically pleasing interior, but also healthy indoor air! I guess there is nothing more to add to this sentence! Many thanks for the exciting and entertaining interview Marcel!

“A feeling becomes a reality” – this quote by Marcel remains stuck in our heads for quite a while. How can we make something invisible like indoor air tangible? The SchwuZ example shows how this can work! They succeed in translating the CO2 readings of the sensors directly into concrete actions and informing about their
purpose. Data becomes action!

Anyone who wants to learn more about ventilation is cordially invited to our event “COMoWorkshop: thick air was yesterday” on August 23, 2022 at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences. For more details, click here!

COMo is a project of the Technologiestiftung Berlin in cooperation with the Hochschule
für Wirtschaft und Technik Berlin and the initiators, KOING GmbH, with funding from the
Senatskanzlei Berlin

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