A recent survey carried out by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has found that nearly 70% of office workers in the UK are concerned that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative effect on their well-being. Also worryingly, approximately 33% feel that this could also be affecting their health.
This is particularly topical due to more awareness of general health and well-being in the workplace and the increasing profile of the Well Building Standards. ‘Wellness’ is definitely receiving industry press coverage at the moment and this will continue as Well assessments start to gain as much interest as environmental assessments such as BREEAM and SKA.
However in reality it is old news – remember Sick Building Syndrome in the 1980s, much of which was attributed to poor indoor air quality?
So why nearly 40 years on are we still trying to tackle this?
Some of the issues are well documented i.e. the effect of more stringent thermal properties of building materials, increasing air tightness requirements, the effect of affordable dwellings with smaller footprints and single aspects, etc.
Perhaps another point to consider is the move to natural ventilation and the effect unfiltered natural ventilation has on indoor air quality? The BESA study found that the most commonly used form of ventilation was to open windows, with 60% of office workers saying they do so for ‘fresh air’. However what actual happens in many cases is that the indoor environment is further polluted by allowing outdoor toxins in, rather than indoor toxins out.
This reminds me of a quote from one of my old university lecturers – ‘opening a window to ventilate a space is like knocking a whole in the roof to provide a water supply’ (I am sure he plagiarised this from somewhere!)
A well designed ventilation system can help alleviate the issues associated with poor indoor quality and our institution CIBSE is currently working with BESA to produce more detailed guidance on this.
We at energylab will be posting a series of blogs on how good MEP design can assist in improving employees health and well-being but in the meantime please check out our website for further details or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.