Thursday, June 29, 2017

BESA launches IAQ Standard on Clean Air Day

A new comprehensive industry standard covering Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has started to take shape following a special event organised by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) to mark the UK’s first ever National Clean Air Day on June 15.

Experts invited from across the industry gathered at BESA’s head office in London to discuss a wide range of IAQ topics and begin work on the Standard.

Clean Air in London director Simon Birkett told the meeting that IAQ was the “cheapest and quickest way to protect people” and urged BESA’s working party to continue its work and help transform buildings into “safe havens” capable of protecting their occupants from the worst impacts of worsening air pollution.

The Association’s head of sustainability David Frise drew direct links between air pollution and a range of diseases including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. He added that there was growing evidence that ailments as diverse as eye disorders, memory loss and poor sleep patterns were linked to pollution.

“However, it is very hard to pinpoint specific deaths caused by dirty air - its impact is cumulative - so there has been a catastrophic lack of action,” said Mr Frise. “Yet this is a problem that has a very personal impact on all of us and on our children.”

Emeritus Professor Derek Clements-Croome of Reading University said the impact the indoor environment had on physical well-being was well understood, but links to mental health had not been properly measured.

He shared a range of research results with BESA’s delegates that demonstrated how internal spaces affected productivity and creativity including a YouGov survey carried out by the Association last year, which showed that 70% of office workers were concerned about the impact of poor IAQ on their health.

“600 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 was demonstrated [in a study carried out by Harvard University] to have a damaging impact on human cognitive function,” said Professor Croome, who is air quality commissioner for Hammersmith and Fulham. “This is considerably below the minimum standard we work to in this country of 1,000 ppm and suggests we need to look again at how we are designing spaces and how we are ventilating them.”

AECOM’s director of sustainability Ant Wilson MBE told the BESA workshop that it had an opportunity to create guidance that could eventually be accepted as a mandatory standard. 

“Lots of the industry’s most established guidance, such as BREEAM, started out as advisory, but was gradually adopted as mandatory by people like local authority planning officers,” he said.

The health impacts of IAQ created an opportunity for building engineering specialists to become a new breed of “building doctors”, according to Adrien Lafond of Foobot - the IAQ measuring technology company.

“You can use available technology to diagnose the air quality problem; prescribe a solution; and then tackle it,” he said. “The future challenge will be to use data to predict where IAQ problems might occur and take preventative measures.”

Foobot and BESA are partnering on an exercise to measure, monitor and analyse air quality data from a number of locations across London establishing a link between outdoor pollution ‘events’ and corresponding impacts on building occupants.

The Association’s senior mechanical engineer Mark Hughes demonstrated the use of the technology and explained how the data could inform IAQ strategies by giving building owners and managers a clear idea of where problems were occurring.

This would also give facilities managers an opportunity to “keep the Citadel clean”, according to ventilation hygiene expert Craig Booth.

He said existing best practice tools like BESA’s TR/19 guide to best practice for ventilation cleanliness and its comprehensive FM tool SFG20 could work well in tandem with the proposed IAQ standard to deliver better conditions for health and well-being.

“The industry should not act like a policeman telling people what they must do, but clearly explain the business benefits of keeping ventilation systems properly maintained,” said Mr Booth.

However, ultimately the industry will have to address skills and competence problems to ensure it can deliver its IAQ promises, according to BESA vice president Giuseppe Borgese.

He said the sector’s workforce did possess many of the necessary skills, but they were not “specifically targeted at improving IAQ”.

Mr Borgese said the level of understanding of the issue would also have to improve and “a fair amount of scaremongering” would be needed to get the message over to clients.

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