Design and Construction, Green Building, Heating and Cooling, Safety

Experts Call for Mandating Indoor Air Quality in Public Buildings

In a new scientific paper, a global group of experts has called for mandating indoor air quality (IAQ) in public buildings and presented a blueprint for national standards.

The group is headed by Professor Lidia Morawska, a distinguished professor at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology and vice chancellor fellow at the U.K.’s University of Surrey. Morawska led the appeal to the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognize the airborne transmission of COVID-19 early in the pandemic and to help minimize it. Now, in a paper published by the prestigious journal Science, Morawska’s international team recommends setting standards for ventilation rate and three key indoor pollutants: carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and PM2.5, which are particles so small they can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

The paper has over 40 contributors, including U.S. professors from Harvard, Yale, Penn State, the University of California, Virginia Tech, and the University of Colorado.

“Most countries do not have any legislated indoor air quality performance standards for public spaces that address concentration levels of indoor air pollutants,” said Morawska.

“To have practical value, IAQ standards must be implementable by designing new buildings that are built, operated, and maintained to standard or retrofitted to meet the standards,” she continued. “While there is a cost in the short term, the social and economic benefits to public health, well-being, and productivity will likely far outweigh the investment in cost in achieving clean indoor air.” 

People living in urban and industrialized societies spend more than 90% of their time indoors, yet the report charged that there are few controls over the quality of the air they breathe there. 

Professor Prashant Kumar, co-author of the paper and director of the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), said, “There’s no doubt that managing indoor air quality is complicated and modeling is difficult because every space is different. But this can’t be an excuse. We propose solutions using readily available, inexpensive monitors, focusing on three indicator pollutants.” 

Professor Catherine Noakes, professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, added, “CO2 is one of the easiest parameters to measure and can serve as a proxy for occupant-emitted contaminants and pathogens, as well as being useful for effectively assessing ventilation quality. By limiting levels of CO2 indoors, we can reduce the spread of diseases spread by respiratory pathogens, like COVID-19, colds, and flu.” 

The paper is available here.

To learn about creating healthy indoor environments, make sure to sign up for Facilities Management Advisor’s FM NOW: Healthy Buildings virtual event happening on April 24th! More information and FREE registration are available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *