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BESA responds to surging interest in building ventilation with a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality’

Who could have predicted that ventilation would have become so central to the public discussion and be recognised for playing such a key role in protecting our future way of life?

Out of sight and out of mind for so long, but now front and central – and seen as crucial to giving people confidence to go back into communal buildings as we emerge from the pandemic.

Even before the pandemic 90% of people were spending up to 90% of their time in a building…during lockdown that almost certainly increased.

And at a time when people are spending more time than ever confined to their homes, the value of a properly engineered indoor environment is more visible than ever.

Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, and that can only be achieved if we work together

NathanWood BESA Nathan Wood Chair of the BESA Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group

It is extraordinary

People are also wearing face coverings because they are now more conscious of what could be in the air they are breathing.

Previously, people were a bit hazy about airborne threats even though the average adult, when resting, inhales and exhales about 13kg of air per day. If you compare that with daily food intake of around 2kg and fluids of 3kg– it is extraordinary that people haven’t given this more thought…until now.

The HVAC industry is a specialist in tackling invisible threats like poor indoor air quality and, suddenly, that invisible threat is visible.

So with interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) surging, BESA has produced a new ‘Beginners Guide’ to the topic and it has gained the support of one of the UK’s most high-profile child health campaigners.

World Health Organisation (WHO) advocate Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah has backed the Guide, which was created by BESA’s Health & Wellbeing in Buildings committee in partnership with our affiliate member Mitsubishi Electric. It is also being supported by Global Action Plan, the organisers of National Clean Air Day and the British Lung Foundation.

A non-technical guide

The ‘Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality’ offers advice and guidance for employees and visitors to commercial buildings and, with so many people now working from home, includes some easy tips for optimising IAQ in residential settings.

This digital publication is designed to give a comprehensive, but non-technical introduction to the subject and can be downloaded for free here.

It is being promoted to the widest possible audience including consumers, commercial building managers, school leadership teams, policy makers etc.

The Beginner’s Guide will also be of interest to those BESA members involved in designing, commissioning, and maintaining indoor environments because it provides a useful overview of the main topic areas. It would work as a starting point for anyone looking to set up a strategy for tackling the poor IAQ that is having a detrimental impact on thousands of UK buildings and their occupants.

WHO advocate for clean air

With an introduction from Kissi-Debrah, the Guide explains how the ventilation and building services industry is able to turn buildings into ‘safe havens’ to protect occupants – particularly children who face the greatest risks – from the worst impacts of contaminated air.

Kissi-Debrah is founder and executive director of The Ella Roberta Family Foundation, World Health Organisation advocate for clean air and child health and Honorary President of BESA’s Health and Wellbeing in Buildings Group.

“This guide is an invaluable non-technical introduction to the issue of IAQ and explains how we can make our own indoor environments safer and healthier for us and our children.” said Kissi-Debrah, who is also honorary president of the Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group.

It provides links to more information and organisations that can offer further advice. It is designed as a jumping off point from which anyone affected by the health and wellbeing implications of poor IAQ can engage with specialists to start addressing their problems.

It also explains how good ventilation and air filtration along with accurate measuring and monitoring of particulate matter are the keys to an effective IAQ strategy.


So, the Guide includes information about the main sources of air pollution and the contaminants that affect indoor spaces and explains why IAQ is often many times more damaging to human health than outdoor pollution.

The guide demonstrates why the air you breathe inside buildings is often worse than the polluted air outside.  

It also points out how much more control we have over our indoor conditions and how we can turn our homes, offices and leisure places into ‘safe havens’ from polluted and contaminated air.

This is particularly important now as we seek to give people confidence that they can safely return to offices and other communal buildings.


The Beginner’s Guide also distils the main findings of healthcare research that has pinpointed the links between poor IAQ and increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory problems; and the growing threat to life posed by our increasingly polluted air.

Mitsubishi Electric’s Head of Sustainability, Martin Fahey pointed out that on average, UK residents spend up to 90% of their time inside buildings – a figure that is likely to have risen even higher during the recent lockdown periods.

“Given the hazards in outdoor air, it’s important that we can regard our homes and workplaces as safe areas that can achieve higher levels of indoor air quality with the right approach,” he said.  “The technologies and expertise already exist to help, so we now need a concerted campaign to highlight the issue.

“We believe everyone has the right to breathe clean air, and that can only be achieved if we work together to raise awareness of the risks of pollution and to drive change in our legislation and behaviours.”

For more information about Indoor Air Quality visit the BESA site.

Nathan Wood is chair of the BESA Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group