Air quality, Clean Air Day

In light of Clean Air Day, the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) says there should be more emphasis placed on the quality of air inside buildings

The BESA is supporting the event and will be using its social media platforms to promote Clean Air Day messages.

However, it believes that clean air campaigns and events continue to be focused almost exclusively on outdoor pollution and that this should change in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently highlighted the risk of virus transmission inside poorly ventilated spaces and a number of scientists pointed out that building ventilation systems would be crucial in limiting the chances of “super spreader” events.

This is, therefore, a great opportunity for Clean Air Day to promote indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions, according to BESA.

As well as trying to cope with the government’s new restrictions on the number of people gathering indoors, BESA also said facilities managers should be revisiting their ventilation strategies to minimise possible transmission risks.

Return to school

The BESA group has been spearheading a campaign to turn buildings into ‘safe havens’ from outdoor pollution and their focus recently turned to schools, which have become a key area of concern since many children returned to poorly ventilated classrooms in September.

A survey of 20 UK classrooms carried out by National Air Quality Testing Services (NAQTS) revealed very low air change rates in many that could increase the risk of virus transmission.

Many schools are keeping children in their classrooms for longer periods to maintain social distancing and BESA is concerned this could increase their exposure to the virus.

BESA believe simply opening windows is not a sustainable strategy.

Another problem with opening windows is the risk of increasing the amount of polluted air entering the building, particularly in urban areas.

Ventilation reducing the threat of virus transmission

BESA chief executive David Frise, said: “Clean Air Day is a great initiative and has been very successful in raising awareness about the wider air pollution issue and we will be supporting the day’s events.

“However, the emphasis continues to be heavily on outdoor pollutants despite the fact that 90% of people spend at least 90% of their time indoors – and that percentage often increases as we move into the winter months.

“Solving global pollution is a generational challenge that will take decades whereas we already have many of the answers to improving IAQ.

“The importance of ventilation and ventilation contractors has grown as a result of the pandemic and we hope that more of the focus of the event this year will turn to the indoor environment and its vital role in safeguarding people’s health and wellbeing.”

Nathan Wood, chair of BESA’s health & wellbeing in buildings group, added: “We have been arguing since the early days of the pandemic that ventilation can play a crucial role in reducing the threat of virus transmission.

“As the weather turns colder, it is inevitable that people will be spending more time inside buildings so mechanical ventilation and air cleaning technologies will be increasingly important.”

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