Behind closed doors – the need to raise the clean air debate inside buildings

Quite rightly over the past few days, much has been made about the suggestion that all diesel and petrol cars should disappear from our roads by 2040.

Realistically, that’s just one generation away and what a great gift cleaner air in our streets and open spaces would be for our grandchildren.

But while such schemes are to be applauded, let’s not forget the air we breathe inside our built environment as well.

As concerns over sick building syndrome appear to be on the rise, it is only right that equal attention is paid over the coming months and years to the quality of air our children breathe in their schools, our loved ones rely on in hospitals and we all enjoy in our workplaces – after all, a recent survey showed we spend an average of 11.5 years of our life at work.

Indoor air quality can be affected by gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, microbial contaminants (mould, bacteria), or any mass or energy that can result in poor air quality and could induce adverse health conditions in occupants.

Department of Education figures show children were absent for 54.5million schooldays in England in 2014/15, mainly due to sicknesses such as colds and sore throats and schools paid out £1.26 billion to hire supply staff to cover staff sickness. Air purification systems are available and should be considered to counter the atmosphere which is a breeding ground for germs.

Many local authorities in the UK now require an air quality assessment as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for new developments, to protect residents and the environment from poor air quality.

We hope to see that number increase as the focus shifts indoors now the big debate about outdoor air quality appears to have gathered momentum and be firmly on the public’s green agenda.

Indoor Air Quality Plans (IAQ) are becoming more popular with new builds but we need to get word out there to help overhaul existing stock to keep ahead of this particular game.

Only this week I read about a push from US paint firms to identify the raw materials used in their products to assure consumers fewer toxins and more organic compounds are forming the basis of what coats their walls and allay their fears over the causes of sick building syndrome.

The Syntegra Group offer a comprehensive range of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessment services, including the provision of BREEAM compliant Indoor Air Quality plans to conform to the Hea 02 Indoor Air Quality guidelines. We also offer LEED EQc3.1 IAQ compliant assessment and plans and help organisations achieve their best possible SKA rating when they conduct fit-outs of their premises, ensuring they comply with a broad range of environmental criteria.

Our services also include air quality monitoring and modelling and make recommendations on issues to do with filtration and ventilation.

As we approach World Green Building Week (September 25-October 1st), it’s right that we continue to think about air quality as it appears on the list of features that makes a building ‘green’ according to the World Green Building Council.

Other areas of focus include:

  • Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
  • Use of renewable energy, such as solar energy
  • Pollution and waste reduction measures, and the enabling of re-use and recycling
  • Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
  • Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
  • Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
  • A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment

(The good news is Syntegra consultants provide services to improve your performance against all these criteria!)

Campaigners for clean air will no doubt be celebrating a significant success around the electric cars debate – rightfully so.

We aim to be at the forefront of tackling the issue that still lurks behind closed doors and open up a world of possibilities for happier, healthier generations to come.