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Russell Jones explores the need for better indoor air quality

In case you weren’t aware, the first ever #WorldVentil8Day takes place tomorrow, the 8th of November!

Days like these are so important for raising awareness and getting people talking.

Did you know for example, that cognitive performance reduces by 50% when individuals are exposed to 1,400ppm of CO2 during a full day, compared to 550ppm, which can be maintained by a good quality ventilation unit?

This is why there is an urgent need for meaningful change in how air is supplied and managed in today’s buildings.

The sculpture will help raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

Free guidance available

One of the main aims of the campaign will be to raise awareness of the economic, health and well-being impacts of ventilation and air quality improvements. 

As advocates for clean air, especially in buildings, we have collaborated with BESA to produce some useful guides to indoor air quality that anyone can download and use.

The first is a basic guide to help people understand the importance of air quality and it includes a foreword from the amazing Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who speaks passionately about the need for improved air quality in our environment.

But more on Ros in a moment.

We need safe havens

The second is focused on Buildings As Safe Havens (BASH) and it sets out realistic and practical steps that anyone in charge of a school, and office, or any other building can take to measure and improve the air quality in their building.

We were proud to work with BESA on this guide, which seeks to set out a quite technical subject and lay it out in terms that any non-engineer can understand.

That’s why the BASH Guide includes a quick checklist and helps people understand all the questions they should ask their ventilation supplier.

The next step is to continue working with BESA, and especially their Health & Wellbeing in Buildings Group, to campaign for changes to the Building Regulations, which will position indoor air quality as one of the most important factors in building design.

The importance of early years

In line with #WorldVentil8Day, we have been highlighting the importance of good indoor air quality – especially in schools. 

Children are especially vulnerable to poor air quality, and exposure can have a life-long impact on a child’s health and development. Stale air affects children’s concentration, causes drowsiness and damages their performance.

Beyond this, high concentrations of infectious particles can exist in classrooms due to the rooms’ low air volume in relation to the high number of individuals, leaving pupils vulnerable to viral illnesses. 

If the pandemic taught us anything it is that better building ventilation plays a critical role in supporting health, wellbeing and productivity, so we work together to push for better standards in all buildings, including schools.

Passion and commitment

I said I would come back to Ros Adoo-Kissi-Deborah, who many inside and outside our industry will know without realising it.

I first remember seeing Ros speak about air quality at an industry awards dinner about 5 years ago. At the time, she was campaigning to have ‘pollution’ listed as the cause of death for her daughter, Ella who sadly died from a severe and rare form of asthma.

Ros has set up the Ella Roberta Family Foundation to campaign for better air quality and has gone on to become a World Health Organisation (WHO) advocate for clean air and child health.

She is also now Honorary President of the BESA Health & Wellbeing in Buildings Group and wrote a moving fore word to the Basic Guide to IAQ.

You can find out more about Ella and her short life living near to the South Circular in London, along with Ros’s campaigning and the incredible team around her by following this link.

A living memorial

In addition to continuing her campaigning on the value of good air quality, especially in a child’s formative years, Ros is also fundraising to build a permanent memorial to Ella in a ‘living’ sculpture for the London Borough of Lewisham, that will react with the pollution levels around it.

The sculpture aims to make the invisible killer of air pollution, visible. It will help raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and start conversations about one of the most important issues facing us all.

The sculptor is Jasmine Pradissitto, an award-winning London-based British artist, academic, scientist, speaker and environmentalist who has a PhD in physics from UCL on the quantum behaviour of silicon in fibre optics and has studied art at Goldsmith’s and London Met.

The sculpture of Ella will be set in a field of wild meadow flowers, bringing some biodiversity back to the city, helping to sequester some pollution from the local roads, and create a space for quiet contemplation.

Made from a naturally occurring ceramic, called NOXTEKTM, the artist has spent the last five years pioneering this innovative material. It is specially mixed and hardens to a stone-like texture. It is inert and insulating, but most importantly, can absorb 15% by weight of nitrogen dioxide (NOx ) pollution i.e. a 3kg sculpture can clean an average-sized room for 60 years.

It will therefore react with the environment and become a living record of the levels of pollution at any given time.

The £15,000 goal of Phase one of the fundraising has already been achieved and the mission now is to add to that already raised for the remaining £40,000 to commission the sculpture and then build the wild meadow flowers.

Ros has been in the news recently commenting on the facts that the Government recently missed its own deadline to set vital air quality targets.

Next February will be the tenth anniversary of Ella’s death yet the number of children dying from asthma in the UK remains unchanged.

Ros will continue campaigning passionately and I hope that we, along with BESA and all of its members continue supporting the drive for all buildings to become safe havens for all.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager