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Oliver Collins looks at the 5 key steps building owners can take

Now more than ever, people understand the benefits of clean, fresh air, inside a building as well as outside.

Following the pandemic, the issue of providing the occupants of any building with clean, healthy air has never been more important, so it’s vital to ensure that the systems in your building are the right ones to deliver effective ventilation, all year round.

At the same time, changes to the building regulations are placing stricter requirements on building operators while overall, energy bills continue to rise, putting a strain on running costs.

This means that attention must be paid to ensuring compliance without breaking the bank.

But the range of technology and solutions on offer can seem overwhelming and it can be a challenge to even know where to start.

What are the key things you need to bear in mind when you are looking at IAQ?

OliverCollins Oliver Collins Channel Marketing Manager for Mitsubishi Electric

Free help and advice

And this is where two free guides from BESA (Building Engineering Services Association) can help.

We worked with BESA – who represent the companies that install HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) equipment to develop a beginner’s guide to indoor air quality and a practical guide to developing Buildings As Safe Havens (the BASH guide)

The beginner’s guide to indoor air quality looks at the background to the issue and includes a foreword from Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, World Health Organisation advocate for clean air and child health, who campaigned to get pollution recorded as the cause of death for her daughter.

The BASH Guide includes a foreword from Professor Cath Noakes, OBE FREng FIMechE, who co-chaired a sub-group of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the pandemic, who says that ventilation is the most overlooked building safety issue.

5 key things

So, what are the key things you need to bear in mind when you are looking at IAQ?

  1. What is the air like right now?
    – Check both indoors and outdoors
  2. Conduct a review of your building
    – What does good (and bad) look like?
  3. Plan for improvements
    – What can you do now, and what do you need to make a business case for?
  4. Select the right equipment for your situation
    – What do you have already and is it right for the job? Do you need to add new equipment?
  5. Maintaining good air quality
    – What were your maintenance regimes like? And how can they be improved? What on-going monitoring can you put in place to automate things?

1 – Air quality

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?

There are a growing range of affordable air quality measurement technologies available now and quality assurance schemes, such as the RESET Air Standard, that can help you to identify products that will provide reliable information.

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.

2 – Identify areas for improvements

Conduct a review of your building – which will help you to identify any problem areas and look for improvements that can be made in both the short-term and long-term.

A review of your building means you can get to know what aspects of its design and systems are helping (or hindering) the air quality inside.

Along with BESA, we recommend working through this review with an IAQ expert who can provide the technical insights needed. 

They can also help you understand what ‘good’ looks like … and what ‘bad’ really is.

As a starting point though, the handy Building Review Spreadsheet (or IAQ Risk Assessment Form) included at the back of the BASH Guide, will prove useful as it focuses on all the key areas you need to look at.

3 – Make a realistic plan and then plan some more

Using the form can help you plan things in four distinct phases which will help highlight how you can plan and prioritise improvements.

It will also help show what can you do now, and what you need to make a business case for.

  • First – Stop.

What do you need to do before you even start your journey to better air quality? Are you qualified to make this assessment? Or do you need help in what to look for? And if you do need help, do you know where to go to for advice?

If you’re not able to proceed without assistance, then say so.

  • Second – Think.

What hazards already exist and what are your current health and safety measurements for air supply?

  • Third – Act

Once you’ve identified hazards and areas that need improvement, what precautions or control methods can you put in place?

Once you’ve done this, what other risks remain and how will you overcome these?

  • Fourth – Review

Once you been through the process once, make sure you review all the lessons that you will benefit from the next time you undertake this review.

4 – Invest wisely for the long term

This is the biggest section of the BASH Guide as there is a lot of equipment out there and lots to consider before you metaphorically reach for the chequebook.

It is worth stating that no one single piece of equipment will be able to guarantee good indoor air quality because each building and situation is unique.

Achieving and maintaining good IAQ is therefore a question of understanding what needs to be achieved for your situation by identifying your own unique issues. 

This will allow you to put together the right system and select the right technology for your building.

The earliest purchase you should look to make though should be on monitoring equipment.

You can’t know how to improve your situation if you don’t measure.

The BASH Guide (and your ventilation experts) can then take you through the different types of ventilation, air conditioning and filtrations systems available.

5 – Building safe havens

Maintaining good indoor air quality is a process and should be based on a clear strategy which is shared with in-house facilities teams and any external service providers.

To maintain good air quality, it is worth examining what your maintenance regimes were like before the review so that you can identify how can they be improved.

The actions you need to take will depend on your building and the type of equipment you already have. But having undergone the review, it should be easier to establish a plan for monitoring IAQ which includes a detailed action plan and strategy.

This will also help in preparing a purchasing policy for the building which supports IAQ improvement.

Such a strategic approach will also help ensure you have the right people and teams in place to undertake regular and ongoing reviews, so that you can develop a feedback loop, to keep the strategy up-to-date and operational.

Finding the right advice

Establishing a successful indoor air quality strategy means working with experts and finding the right people to work with is critical.

That’s where BESA can help as their members are independently assessed to a high level of technical competence, commercial capability and best practice in health hand safety.

The overall aim is to provide peace of mind for clients who work with BESA members.

You can find a full list on the BESA website, searching for ‘Indoor Air Quality’ to find a specialist.

Oliver Collins is Channel Marketing Manager for Mitsubishi Electric