A new research paper by the British Council for Offices (BCO) titled Thoughts on ventilation design and operation post COVID-19, has called for UK offices to ensure they have adequate ventilation ahead of the return to work.
The paper highlights that while most offices that follow good practice guidelines do benefit from good ventilation, there are also many examples of poorly ventilated offices that fall short of the best practice guidelines set out in the BCO’s 2019 Guide to Specification. Poorly ventilated indoor spaces have been linked to COVID-19 super spreader events and the paper states that ventilation in these offices must be “addressed urgently”.
Recent advice from the UK government highlights the importance of good ventilation in fighting COVID-19, citing research which shows that being in a well-ventilated space can reduce the risk of infection from airborne particles by more than 70 per cent.
What’s more, the benefits of a well-ventilated space go beyond mitigating the pandemic, with research showing a clear link between good ventilation and improved health and wellbeing.
The paper recommends the following:
- All occupied and transient spaces within offices should be provided with good levels of outdoor air ventilation.
- Particular attention should be given to high occupation density spaces such as conference suites, social hubs and meeting rooms, to ensure they have an adequate outdoor air supply and exhaust air ventilation.
- Avoiding the use of air recirculation in central ventilation plants.
- Providing facilities management professionals with appropriate training and educational resources to help them to address indoor ventilation challenges effectively and to ensure systems are properly maintained and their performance monitored.
- Continuous indoor air quality monitoring and the maintenance of CO2 levels below 1000 ppm.
The paper discusses the potential use of air-cleaning technology to remove viral particles from the air but urges caution in their application and emphasises that they are not a substitute for ventilation and should not be used as a reason to reduce outdoor ventilation rates.
Derek Clements-Croome, Professor Emeritus at University of Reading and lead author of the report, said: “Ensuring a high standard of indoor air quality may be the most important thing we can do to fight COVID-19, combined with social distancing, washing our hands and wearing masks. Yet too many UK offices have inadequate ventilation. Germany is providing finance to upgrade ventilation systems in buildings and the UK Government should consider doing this too.
“The importance of good office ventilation to maintain the general health and wellbeing of occupants is well understood, but the deeper understanding we now have of how it can help reduce the risk of airborne disease transmission following the experience of COVID-19 has provided a new impetus to improve things further. Doing so will bring long term benefits. Offices that enjoy better indoor air quality conditions also tend to be occupied by happier, healthier and more productive workers.”
Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, said: “Naturally, we’re pleased that offices can reopen soon – however, we want make sure that the transition is as safe as possible. Offices should have a high standard of ventilation, not only to combat COVID-19, but also to aid the long-term wellbeing of workers.”
The free paper can be downloaded here.