Oliver Collins, Channel Marketing Manager at Mitsubishi Electric
Now more than ever, people understand the benefits of clean, fresh air inside a building as well as outside, as the Covid-19 pandemic has placed it firmly on the agenda. As a result, greater public awareness of the importance of good indoor air quality has grown. The government has also launched a new consultation on the Air Quality Strategy, which sets out the actions local authorities can take to support the achievement of current targets for indoor air quality.
There is also growing awareness of the importance of indoor air quality in buildings. For example, both Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations now recognise the role of adequate ventilation in maintaining good levels of indoor air quality. This means it’s now more important than ever for owners and operators to ensure their buildings comply with new and existing legislation in improving the quality of air in these spaces.
However, with a range of technology and solutions on offer, it can be difficult for facility managers and building operators to know where to start. With this in mind, here are five steps contractors and installers can take to provide good indoor air quality and support occupants in accessing clean, healthy air for years to come.
Five key things
So, what are the key things you need to bear in mind when you are looking at IAQ?
Assess current air quality levels
The key thing in helping you understand the quality of the air both in and around your building is to gather data. What is the air like right now? What is it like at busy times of the day? This can help provide a better understanding of which areas need to make specific improvements to air quality.
There are several quality assurance schemes available that offer a clear set of building standards for occupants. For example, the RESET Air Standard outlines the requirements necessary for the deployment of monitors, data collection and reporting results and can be a useful starting point for occupants looking to measure and assess indoor air quality.
Remember also that hand-held devices are useful for tracking down the source of problems, but for continuous monitoring, it is sensible to consider having monitors installed in and around your building.
Identify areas for improvement
The next step is to conduct a building review. This will allow occupants to identify which areas of the building design and systems are affecting indoor quality and where specific improvements need to be made in both the short term and long term.
It can also be helpful to divide each area into different zones when conducting a building review. This is because, for buildings such as schools and offices, occupancy often varies throughout the day – with classrooms being occupied by 30 students and a teacher for most of the day, as well as a larger group for assembly once a day. This will allow owners or occupants to consider the different issues affecting indoor air quality in these areas, as well as the type of the solution required for each.
Establish a clear plan of action
Once the key areas requiring improvement have been identified, it’s important to establish a clear plan of action for improving indoor air quality in their buildings.
Using an Indoor Air Quality Risk Assessment Form can allow building operators to identify and categorise which areas are high, medium and low risk and the necessary control measures and precautions they need to take for each area. It can also be helpful to consider what hazards already exist and the current health and safety measures for air supply that are in place.
Operators should also consider whether they need the help of an indoor air quality expert to assess the quality of air in their building, who can advise and provide technical insight on any questions they have.
Choose the right technology for the long term
Next, it’s important to choose the right technology for the building. This is because no single piece of equipment is able to guarantee good indoor air quality in a building and it may require different systems working in tandem.
Energy efficiency is a key area to consider when helping operators choose equipment for their building. Systems such as Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) are able to balance energy efficiency with the provision of fresh air ventilation and can be relatively quick and easy to install. MVHR systems also transfer around 80%-90% of the energy from outgoing stale air to heat incoming fresh air, meaning less energy is needed to heat the building overall.
Filtration is also key to achieving good indoor air quality. Class ePM1 filters, for example, can remove particulate matter down to PM1, making them ideally suited for ventilation systems in buildings close to roads in city centres. Depending on the type of ventilation equipment installed, it might also be possible to retrofit new filters without disrupting building operation.
Review and improve
Once you’ve selected the right technology for your building, it’s also key for building operators to establish a regular service and maintenance regime for the systems installed. This can help ensure equipment is operating effectively and can help prevent breakdowns or the need for unplanned repair in the long term. Regularly servicing units can also help reduce repair costs by identifying anything that needs correcting before it becomes a major issue.
With awareness around the importance of good indoor air quality continuing to grow, it is vital people have access to clean, healthy air in the buildings they live in and occupy. By supporting occupants in identifying the key areas for improvement, establishing a clear plan of action and selecting the right technology, contractors and installers can help building operators to not only improve indoor air quality but create more productive and healthy environments in homes, offices and buildings in the months and years ahead.
We have published two useful guides to Indoor Air Quality in conjunction with with BESA which provide more information and can be downloaded here: