Planning Breakthrough On Indoor Air Quality?

Posted in Indoor Air Quality on November 22, 2017

Could the penny finally be dropping on indoor air quality (IAQ)?

The government is once again facing legal action, launched by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, over its failure to reduce levels of air pollution despite being ordered to put more effective measures in place by the Supreme Court last year.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in urban air remain at the same level they were in 2015 even though the government claims it is spending £3bn on anti-pollution measures. The government says it will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, but what happens in the meantime? The impact of polluted air is now "a major health crisis", according to the British Lung Foundation.

While the long-term fight to clean up our air goes on, the building services industry continues to lobby for more immediate action on IAQ. There are multiple measures that can be put in place for buildings that can have an instant impact on the environment where we spend around 90% of our time i.e. indoors.

Tackling IAQ issues can be much quicker and cheaper than the multi-decade plan to get diesel cars off our roads; cut emissions from industrial processes and reduce fossil fuel consumption. While we have to accept that the air outside our buildings will remain polluted for years to come, we can be doing something now about turning our buildings into 'safe havens' from that pollution.


This has proved to be a difficult concept for many national and local politicians to grasp, but at last month's Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) national conference, the deputy mayor of London Shirley Rodrigues said IAQ could become part of planning laws for the capital.

She urged building services firms to respond to the current consultation process on changes to the London Plan and to share their expertise with policy makers - and where London leads, the rest of the country tends to follow.
"IAQ is a relatively new area for us to understand and we want to talk to your industry about the right steps to take," she said. "We also need to make sure that people are provided with better evidence about the risks posed by poor IAQ.

"We are aware that air brought into buildings through their ventilation systems can contribute to health problems and we will use the planning system to make sure this is taken into account by everyone involved in building projects, including architects," she told the conference.

Ms Rodrigues, who is deputy mayor for the environment and energy, said she was particularly concerned about the impact on vulnerable building occupants like school children and said 400 London schools had been identified as being at particular risk.

She said it was important to address IAQ and improve the information available to the public while the Mayor's office tried to address the "wider systemic issues of pollution in general".

The Mayor Sadiq Khan recently produced data showing that every borough in London exceeded World Health Organisation limits for PM2.5 - the toxic air particles linked to lung damage and elevated risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer. He has pledged to spend £875 million on air quality measures over the next five years.

The research, based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, also showed that 7.9 million Londoners - nearly 95% of the capital's population - lived in areas that exceed the WHO guidelines by 50% or more.
Ms Rodrigues told the BESA conference that PM2.5 was responsible for 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year and children exposed to levels above the WHO limit were likely to grow up with reduced lung function and were at a higher risk of developing asthma.

Could it be that politicians are finally waking up to the opportunity to safeguard the health, well-being and productivity of building users by ensuring more thought is given to the design, use and maintenance of ventilation systems.

Making IAQ a planning issue would be a serious 'game changer'.

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