Government advisor calls for improved building ventilation

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Professor Cath Noakes, a government scientific advisor, has called for improved building ventilation and professional accreditation for contractors

Professor Noakes raised awareness of the importance of building ventilation, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) National Conference.

She told the Conference that the pandemic had highlighted systemic failings in how we design and retrofit buildings.

Adding that we should pay more attention to the impact of poor ventilation on human health and productivity.

“Many of our buildings are under-ventilated and there is no excuse for it,” said Noakes.

Respiratory health

“This is not just about complying with regulations. We also need to show clients that there is a benefit to them through the health and wellbeing of people. We know buildings improve health and that poor indoor air quality reduces productivity by up to 9% – that’s half a day a week.

“Before the pandemic, 5.3 million working days were being lost every year to respiratory infections [figures from the Office for National Statistics], but it is still not as tangible as your energy bill, so we need to push that message harder.

Indoor air quality

“The increased amount of indoor air quality monitoring since the pandemic is helping because it is making people more aware of their indoor environment. However, it is now clear that it is very hard to naturally ventilate buildings adequately in winter.”

She also called for better evaluation of systems in use.

“We seem to know a lot about the new technologies emerging into the market, but some of the existing solutions are probably better – we just need to measure what they are doing. They also need to be well-maintained,” she said.

“We also need to look at professional accreditation [for the ventilation sector] because we are not applying the same standards to the ventilation industry as we do to gas and electricity, for example,” added Noakes.

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