IAQ in buildings is ‘quickest and cheapest anti-pollution measure

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the quickest and cheapest way to protect people from worsening air pollution, according to one of the country’s foremost clean-air campaigners. Speaking at a special IAQ event to mark the UK’s first ‘National clean air day’ last month, Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, said that IAQ must become part of the building planning process.

He told the meeting, which was organised and hosted by BESA (Building Engineering Services Association), that specialist engineers could play a key role in turning buildings into ‘safe havens’ capable of protecting the health and welfare of occupants.

‘European citizens spend on average over 90% of their time indoors, which means we can protect ourselves from 90% of air pollutants for up to 90% of the time by using good-quality air filters and making sure they are properly maintained.

‘We would like to see this reflected in the new London Plan (the Mayor of London’s planning framework currently under consultation),’ added Mr Birkett, who called on the experts assembled by BESA to help inform the consultation process.

BESA used the occasion to unveil plans for the industry’s first comprehensive IAQ standard and kicked off the writing process with a workshop involving representatives from across the building-services sector. Mr Birkett said that this work would help to inform future Government policies, which he said needed to be integrated to reflect the fact that we are dealing with ‘one atmosphere’ so that measures covering air, energy and transport are all part of the same regulatory framework.

‘It is the myopic focus since 1990 on CO2 and fuel efficiency that has created this mess, and now many roads in central London have the highest NO2 concentrations in the world,’ he added.

AECOM’s director of sustainability Ant Wilson told the meeting that work on an IAQ standard was an opportunity to create guidance that could eventually become a legal requirement.

BESA’s head of sustainability David Frise, added, ‘When I told a meeting of architects last year that the biggest issue facing the built environments sector was air quality, they scoffed at me. Since then the weight of scientific evidence has been piling up, and I don’t think they would be so dismissive now.’

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