Parents United UK has welcomed proposals from a high-profile group of scientists to introduce a colour coded assessment and label system for detailing ventilation quality in enclosed spaces

Campaigners have welcomed calls from the Independent SAGE group of scientists for the introduction of a colour-coded rating system for determining indoor air quality in enclosed spaces such as schools.

Parents United UK, which describes itself as a grass roots campaign group with tens of thousands of followers focused on safe conditions for school pupils and staff, said it would be lobbying for government to act on the labels proposed by the scientists.

The proposals from Independent Sage would the resemble existing international energy labelling system for measuring building efficiency that uses a colour system ranging from green for highest performing properties to red for those where improvements are needed.

A statement from Parents United said it hoped to see formal adoption in the UK for the clearer communication and certification of ventilation standards and effectiveness. One example of this was a colour coded rating system that can be mounted to doors and wall and more easily understood by the public.

Parent’s United UK said in a statement, “We agree that good communication is key to instilling consumer confidence, and feel it is likely that our members are more likely to enter public spaces – such as cinemas, pubs and restaurants – which they may otherwise choose to avoid due to a lack of communication about the indoor air quality in those spaces.”

A new kind of IAQ label

Independent Sage, which is not officially recognised by the UK government but provides recommendations to help steer policy around managing the Covid-19 pandemic, said a new labelling system would be vital to improve understanding of ventilation standards.

This would work by assessing the performance of ventilation systems – if present at all – and then rating them in a scale from green to red for the effective mechanical ventilation down to openable windows or doors respectively, according to the group’s scientists.  Part of the label plan would be to set out recommendations for mitigating potential infection risks in the property based on the ventilation rates available in a particular building.

These mitigations could include measures such as wearing a mask, or limiting room capacity or the time spent in an enclosed area without further improvements in how air is being refreshed.

Independent Sage stated, “More needs to be done in terms of basic investment in producing standards and making buildings properly ventilated. We call for a public health messaging scheme, including (as simple as possible) a rating and potential certification system, that can support behaviour and policy around the use of indoor spaces.”

“We propose a campaign similar to effective schemes already in place for food hygiene standards, white goods energy labels or ‘Display Energy Certificate’ on doorways – combined with icons to indicate behavioural mitigations needed. Ratings could be based on previous or new monitoring of the space.”

Although the proposed label system is specifically devised to address the growing evidence linking Covid-19 infection rates to airborne transmission, scientists behind the calls have argued there would be benefits in addressing the wider health impacts of poor ventilation.

Certification is identified as a major part of any successful IAQ labelling to ensure formal standards are in place and trusted.  Independent Sage cited the example of mandatory food hygiene certificates issued by local authorities that rate restaurants on issues such as cleanliness. It claimed these certificates, displayed in a property’s window, had been linked through research to meaningful improvements in standards in UK restaurants.

Independent Sage said, “If such a scheme became mandatory, local and national governments must support organisations and businesses to improve their ratings to ensure that small businesses and community facilities are able to participate.”

“It is very likely that large sectors of the economy will find this scheme advantageous where visitor numbers have dropped due to trust and confidence issues around infection control in a venue, and that the scheme is a more palatable alternative to closing or limiting activities, should future public health crises resume.”

Building engineering services body BESA said earlier this year that there was growing consensus from industry and medical experts of the need to address a lack of standardisation around ventilation performance and indoor air quality.

The claims were made following the publication by the group of guidance for ensuring improved level of IAQ in buildings to try and improve occupant health and wellbeing.


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