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Air pollution deaths highlighted by report

The latest report from The Environmental Audit committee on air quality, its third in five years, has prompted BSRIA to call for more action.

Poor air quality is resulting in an estimated total of 29,000 deaths per year, and the report calls for new schools, hospitals and care homes to be built away from major roads.

Existing buildings that are sited close to busy roads, including 1,000 schools, should filter the air coming into the building, it stated.

BSRIA head of sustainable construction group Ian Orme said: “Experts believe that the figure of 29,000 is a robust figure - that is unacceptable.

“Those of us working in the built environment must play our part in addressing this. There is also a wider issue of air quality that we need to address as the environment in which people live and work plays a massive part in their wellbeing.

“As we have got better at making buildings air tight, it is BSRIA’s experience that there are often significant failures in the performance of ventilation systems, leading to an unhealthy environment.”

BSRIA said the five main reasons for poor indoor air quality were:

  • impractical designs and/or designers “gaming” with calculations so as to demonstrate the standards are met;
  • ductwork can be prone to damage, and the practical installation of ductwork, fans, and terminal units does not always equate to what was designed - including instances of mechanical ventilation systems simply not being connected up to the power supply;
  • poor commissioning such as that of ventilation dampers, sensors and controls can significantly affect performance - and it added that the current approved method of measuring air flow from low pressure ventilation systems is fundamentally flawed, making it is difficult to identify the true situation in many buildings, even where a ventilation system has been properly commissioned;
  • poor maintenance of filters and sensors can have a significant impact on flow rates and the effectiveness of filtration, and design issues sometimes make cleaning of filters or their replacement, or the cleaning of ductwork, somewhat problematic;
  • occupant effects such as not using the ventilation system as per the design intent, manual tampering of controls, sensors and dampers - for example, where mechanical ventilation works with trickle ventilators, they may be taped shut.