New report reveals ignorance over indoor air quality in public buildings

Air filtration in public buildings in London –   Many local authorities are in the dark when it comes to knowing if their buildings use regularly maintained air filters that comply with indoor air quality standard EN 13779, particularly schools, according to a new report from Clean Air in London (CAL).

Indoor Air Quality in Offices

In the report, the cross-party campaigning group claims that indoor air quality (IAQ) can often be worse than outdoor (or ambient) air quality, due to the many sources of pollution that exist within buildings and homes. CAL is therefore campaigning to build public understanding of indoor air quality, initially in London, with support from us here at Camfil Farr.

The report examines the issue of air filtration in public buildings in London.  It includes the results of an Environment Information Regulations request to local, regional and central Government bodies asking ‘which buildings owned, occupied or managed by the Local Authority use regularly maintained air filters that comply fully with European guideline EN 13779 e.g. offices and schools’.  The responses received are analysed and ranked.

The Greater London Authority Group (GLA Group) demonstrated detailed knowledge of its buildings.  However, CAL was surprised to discover that only eight of 15 buildings in Transport for London’s ‘Head Office Portfolio’ were due to comply fully with EN 13779 by April 2012 with seven others in 2012/2013 and many more having no expected compliance date. CAL has also been surprised to discover a big difference among the 33 local authorities in London in terms of how much they know about indoor air quality standards in their buildings. Some have been able to provide quite detailed information on compliant buildings whilst others seem to have little idea of which buildings comply with EN 13779.  Many local authorities have told CAL they do not know about compliance with EN 13779 in some or all of their schools because they are independently managed.

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Clean air gains momentum in the European political arena

Last year Camfil Farr started to develop a dialogue with stakeholders involved in the policy-making process in Europe, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), expert groups mandated for developing new regulations for the energy efficiency of ventilation systems, and policymakers from the European Commission and government agencies.

The objective is to share Camfil Farr’s expertise on the best available technology for air filtration and the options for ensuring that indoor air quality (IAQ) and public health will not be compromised by the next set of European regulations for the energy efficiency of buildings and ventilation systems.

Another purpose is to encourage debates and build awareness of how low-energy air filtration solutions can play a key role in reducing the energy consumption of buildings while also improving IAQ and impacting both sustainability and human health positively.

EU policymakers have long focused on the quality of outdoor air, drawing up strategies and targets for reducing harmful emissions of pollutants from cars and heavy industries.

However, a recent EU-funded research project found that levels of many harmful air pollutants are higher indoors than outdoors.

And while EU rules are patchy, Europeans have been growing into an increasingly sedentary people, spending on average 90% of their time indoors. Continue reading