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Air of authority

05 August 2019

Having formed an Air Quality working group, CIBSE aims to document best practice and feed into its guidance publications, many of which are used extensively in the FM sector.

As a leading engineering body for the built environment, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) is an impassioned advocate for healthy air both inside and outside of buildings.

To help champion the cause, on Clean Air Day 2018 the institution announced the launch of a new working group to inform its activities and guidance on air quality. The Air Quality Group's mission: "To use engineering skills to support the pursuit of healthy air in the built environment."

The formation of the new working group will help CIBSE promote improvements in air quality and to build links to other organisations with similar goals. The new group will also collaborate with other CIBSE groups, such as the Resilient Cities Group and the HVAC Group, on issues of shared interest.

"We hope to improve the standard of air in buildings through documenting best practice and through informing CIBSE activities and guidance documents," says Edwin Wealend, chair of the new working group and Cundall consulting engineer.

Mr Wealend says increasing amounts of attention are being paid to the impact of indoor air quality (IAQ) on people's health and wellbeing through pressure from increased public awareness, the application of standards such as WELL and RESET and new guidelines such as BB101 for schools.

As a consequence he says some landlords are increasingly focused on the provision of good quality air because it may allow them to charge a higher rent for a space because the IAQ complies with a particular quality standard.

In addition, there have been a series of studies which have drawn attention to the impact of poor air quality in the workspace or schools.

These suggest that when carbon dioxide levels in a space are high, occupants' cognitive performance will be significantly worse, impacting their productivity and learning.

Coinciding with this increase in air quality awareness is what Mr Wealend describes as a "huge growth" in the sale of air quality sensors, particularly in the consumer market. Armed with data from the sensors, occupants are starting to hold landlords to account for poor air quality, for example if there is insufficient fresh air.

"From personal experience large landlords are paying much more attention to air quality now that occupants can sense the quality of air in a space," says Mr Wealend.

Although the Air Quality working group's membership numbers are currently small - the group has a total of just 10 members to date - the members' interests and experience are broad and include many aspects of indoor and outdoor air quality.

The group is not currently open to manufacturers, but CIBSE says they will be involved when their expertise is required.

"It's a small group with a varied skill set to reflect the nature of IAQ, our members include: mechanical engineers; outdoor air quality specialists; people focused on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and indoor pollutants; we have a guy whose focus is on the chemistry of plants; and some-body from a property care association who is an expert on mould in buildings and the improvements that can be made through controlled ventilation," Mr Wealend explains.

"My background is as a mechanical engineer, but I have gained a good understanding of sensors as a result of developing an IEQ monitoring system from scratch,” he adds.

Mr Wealend's familiarity with sensor technology will come in useful with one of the group's first tasks: the publication of guidance on air quality sensors and their limitations.

He says the guidance is needed because sensor technology is not currently covered by CIBSE guidance and there is a need for some scientific rigour.

"People are able to buy air quality sensors from internet retailers for a relatively low price but they don't understand the sensor's limitations," says Mr Wealend.

He says he expects the guidance to take the form of an article in a magazine, which will explain the different sensor types, what they can and cannot measure and an explanation of each sensor's limitations.

Alongside the guide to sensors the group also has plans to update the CIBSE Technical Memoran-da 21: Minimising Pollution at Air Intakes, which Mr Wealend admits will be "quite a body of work".

In addition, he says the group will be putting together a timeline for air quality best practice. "This will involve taking a project from inception to completion and explaining what should be considered at each stage in relation to air quality and where designers can find appropriate guidance," he says.

"The guidance is already out there, it's just that people don't know where to find it so we're trying to create a road map to say where to look," he adds.

The group will also help CIBSE respond to the review of Part F of the Building Regulations. "We'll help CIBSE prepare their representation to government in relation to air quality," Mr Wealend says.

"If people have an opinion on how Part F can be improved they can direct it to us or to CIBSE via the CIBSE website" he says.

Those wishing to join the CIBSE Air Quality group should email Edwin Wealend in the first instance.

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