‘People need to know the air just as they know that the
ACADEMICS SAY VENTILATION HAS
ACADEMICS say indoor ventilation standards must improve to help combat airborne transmission in the wake of Covid-19.
They are calling for regulations, standards, building designs and operations relating to the air we breathe to undergo vital improvements after finding they are “addressed fairly weakly, if at all”.
A recent study involving Leicester experts published in the journal Science says a “paradigm shift” is needed if people are to feel confident in eating, drinking and socialising indoors again.
A clinical virologist of respiratory sciences from the University of Leicester, Dr Julian Tang said: “We all want to be confident that the air in our homes and the buildings and restaurants we visit is clean, just as we are assured that the water coming out of our taps is safe for us to drink.
“If public places have a ‘ventilation certificate,’ much like being health and safety certified, we will see restaurants more easily regaining diners’ trust, and employees more confidently returning to offices.”
The paper stated: “A paradigm shift is needed on the scale that occurred when Chadwick’s Sanitary Report in 1842 led the British government to encourage cities to organise clean water supplies and centralised sewage systems.”
According to the study, improved ventilation could also reduce the occurrence of common colds and allergies as well as help combat infectious disease transmission.
It stated that Covid-19 outbreaks in communities had most frequently happened at larger distances through “inhalation of airborne virus-laden particles in indoor spaces shared with infected individuals.”
The report added: “We also have strong evidence on disease transmission, for example in restaurants, ships, and schools, suggesting that the way we design, operate, and maintain buildings influences transmission.”
Lidia Morawska, the paper’s lead author, said that “a cross-system reallocation of budgets must now be facilitated to mandate new ventilation standards.”
While detailed economic analysis had yet to be done, Prof Morawska said estimates suggested necessary investments in building systems could be less than 1 per cent of the construction cost of a typical building.
For decades, the focus of archi
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT
tects and building engineers had been on thermal comfort, odour control, perceived air quality, initial investment cost, energy use and other performance issues, while infection control was neglected, researchers said.
Prof Morawska added: “The general public currently have no way of knowing the condition of indoor spaces they occupy and share with others.
“Wide use of monitors displaying the state of indoor air quality will keep building operators accountable for air quality.
“Demand-controlled ventilation systems can be adjusted for different room occupancies, and differing activities and breathing rates, such as exercising in a gym versus sitting in a movie theatre.”
Study author Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at Oxford University, said a rethink was needed across many countries of the practice of keeping windows closed and recycling stale air in air-conditioning.
She said: “It’s no exaggeration to call this a paradigm shift. Up to now, most of the efforts to prevent transmission of
We all want to be confident the air in the buildings and restaurants we visit is clean
Covid-19 and other airborne respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis has focused on influencing individual behaviour such as mask-wearing, cough hygiene and hand-washing.
“These measures are still important, but they will be relatively ineffective in the indoor environment until we ensure that the air that we inhale contains far fewer particles that have been exhaled by others in the room.”