The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has launched a ‘basic awareness’ training course for indoor air quality (IAQ).
It was developed by the Association’s online training Academy and is based on a series of guides produced by BESA’s Indoor Air Quality group promoting the concept of buildings as ‘Safe Havens’ from polluted outside air.
The training provides a useful introduction for anyone interested in the subject including those with some working knowledge of building services but who need to have a deeper understanding of IAQ. It is also suitable for people from a non-technical background keen to expand their knowledge so they can make better informed decisions about their indoor environments.
This short online course explains the importance of IAQ, the main airborne contaminants that affect buildings, their sources, and the impact on the indoor environment caused by outdoor pollution.
It is not designed to lead to a technical qualification but will help anyone who needs to put together an IAQ strategy for their building and be more aware of the threats to health, well-being and productivity posed by poor air quality.
It should also equip them with enough knowledge of the topic to be able to ask informed questions, establish the kind of technical intervention required, and appoint IAQ/ventilation specialists to carry out improvement or remedial work.
The launch of the course follows the most recent national Clean Air Day (CAD) which highlighted the growing threat to health and well-being posed by polluted indoor air, and last month’s publication of the first British Standard for health & well-being in buildings.
BESA reported that more studies confirming the links between health problems and airborne ultra-fine particulate matter had been published, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had identified air pollution as the biggest environmental risk to health – blaming it for around one in every nine premature deaths annually.
A survey for CAD carried out by Zehnder Group found that 83% of UK residents wanted to know more about the air quality inside their homes, but while a sixth said they worried about outdoor pollution just one in ten had the same level of concern about the indoor threat.
Adam Taylor, vice chair of BESA’s Indoor Air Quality group, urged the government to mount a public awareness campaign similar to those that featured celebrities highlighting the risks posed by car crashes and household fires, which account for fewer deaths than pollution.
“The annual mortality of human-made air pollution in the UK is roughly equivalent to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year,” he said. “Globally, household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year in 2020.”
Taylor said lack of public awareness was at least partially due to the way that IAQ information is presented. “We gather lots of data but that has to be translated into actionable insights.”
The BESA awareness course provides a series of practical measures that building owners and operators can take to address IAQ concerns including measuring and monitoring airborne contaminants, checking and improving ventilation systems, and understanding the role of filtration and regular maintenance of air systems.
It takes around 45 minutes to complete the course online and it can be undertaken in a series of manageable ‘bite sized’ chunks at the user’s convenience from home or work. It costs £15 plus VAT for BESA members and £25 plus VAT for non-members.
BESA intends the training to support its messages to contractors, developers, designers, manufacturers, builders, occupiers, and maintenance engineers about how they can act positively on buildings and their systems to improve occupant comfort, health, and well-being – and also strengthen their businesses in the process.
The Association also wants to step up pressure on the government to be more ambitious in its target setting for reducing air pollution, which currently lags behind the latest WHO Air Quality Guidelines (September 2021). For example: the Environment Act 2021 in secondary legislation sets a concentration target for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 10 µg/m3 by 2040 against a WHO target of 5 µg/m3.
“Everyone in building engineering services should have a basic grounding in air quality solutions and be able to explain how poor IAQ affects human health and well-being and the costs of not addressing it properly,” said BESA’s IAQ Group chair Nathan Wood.
“There is huge demand for this kind of introductory training from right across society because everyone is impacted. 90% of people spend at least 90% of their time indoors – and it is so important that we spread the word and improve understanding of this major threat to public health, which directly affects respiratory and heart conditions, asthma, and mental health.
“The more people know and understand why and how IAQ affects health and comfort, the greater will be the pressure on government to legislate properly and in line with the latest worldwide data,” said Wood.
For more information and to register for BESA’s Basic Awareness training for IAQ visit the BESA Academy website.