The ‘Buildings as Safe Havens’ guide is the latest in a series of free documents produced by industry body BESA and IAQ specialists to better identify and address poor ventilation rates

New indoor air quality guidance produced by BESA aims to address concerns about a “significant number” of under-ventilated buildings across the UK.

The ‘Buildings as Safe Havens’ guidance, published with support from Mitsubishi Electric, looks at the role of ventilation, filtration and air cleaning solutions and how they can be used by building owners and operators to rethink how air quality is monitored and managed.

A specific focus of the document, which is the third and final part of a series of free guidance documents produced by BESA, backs ensuring that buildings are able to meet a recommended ventilation rate of 10 litres per person per second of clean air.

The latest guidance set out questions building managers can ask ventilation and building engineers to better identify possible IAQ issues. Recommendations are also published for how best to conduct effective buildings reviews and how to implement improvements with regards to the different air management and cleaning technologies available.

Professor Catherine Noakes, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and a highly regarded expert on IAQ, has written the forward for the Buildings as Safe Haven guidance.

Professor Noakes said that building operators should look to address the health and welfare impacts of poor IAQ by ensuring a sufficient amount of cleaner air is flowing into buildings, as opposed to looking solely at increasing the rate of external air.

She said in the forward, “To make buildings more resilient we need both short-term solutions and a long-term strategy. For example, local air cleaners based on HEPA filtration or UVC disinfection are important tools, but they are not an alternative to improving the general ventilation. The wider problem is that most buildings in this country do not have any active ventilation management.”

“At the top end of the market, the issue is well understood, and expertise is on hand to put best practice into effect. Now we must urgently expand our expert workforce to help the thousands of buildings that have no ventilation strategy and lack the information and expertise to prepare for the next health emergency…which will undoubtedly come.”

Guidance authors

The guidance has been put together by a special technical committee that was led by Nathan Wood, Chair of Besa’s Health & Wellbeing in Buildings Group. He was supported by Graeme Fox, the association’s head of technical.

the guide includes a spreadsheet for building managers to help identify possible issues impacting ventilation and air quality in their buildings. It also uses a traffic light-style system to prioritise the improvements that need to be made, while supporting individuals to get the right expertise.

Mr Wood said, “BESA is working hard to raise awareness and provide free guidance that can improve competence and compliance across the ventilation industry – and broaden the pool of ventilation expertise to take on this massive task.”

Hern Yau, ventilation product specialist at Mitsubishi Electric, said the guidance reinforced the importance of ensuring building managers were working with properly trained IAQ specialists.

Mr Yau said that gaining access to the correct industry expertise was vital due to a growing awareness of IAQ as a safety issue as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the risks of airborne infection from the virus.

He added, “This guide will help contribute to a greater understanding of the type of equipment available, as well as encouraging more productive conversations about what can be achieved in our buildings in the long-term.”

The campaign for better air quality

The Buildings as Safe Havens guide was launched in London this week by high profile air quality campaigner Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah.

Ms Adoo Kissi-Debrah, who is now also honorary president of the BESA Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group, is pushing for stricter air quality standards in the UK as a major health and safety priority.

In recent years, she has successfully campaigned to have air pollution formally classed as a direct cause in the death of her daughter Ella Roberta Kissi-Debrah. The decision by the London Inner South Coroner’s Court in December 2020 is believed to be the first ruling of its kind to have linked exposure to airborne pollutants to having “made a material contribution” to the death of an individual.

Ella Kissi-Debrah died in 2013 and was nine years’ old.

Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah highlighted the importance of protecting individuals against poor air quality and contaminants during the launch of the new guidance.

She said, “I am not angry, but I am sad that we are still living with an air quality crisis that puts the health of everyone at risk.”


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