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World Ventil8 Day hailed a ‘huge success’

Health experts, engineers, scientists, and academics have hailed the first ever World Ventilation Day (#WorldVentil8Day) held last week on 8 November as a “huge success”

Twenty-one organisations, including professional bodies, universities, and environmental groups from across UK, Europe, North America, and Australia, backed the campaign to raise public awareness of the vital role played by ventilation in supporting people’s health, wellbeing, and productivity.  

The day consisted of webinars, in person talks, new research being launched, and a range of ventilation experiments demonstrating how good ventilation can reduce exposure to air pollutants and infectious diseases, aid human productivity, improve sleep, and reduce mould and damp in buildings.  

Spearheaded by leading healthy building champion Professor Cath Noakes OBE, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at the University of Leeds, the campaign was driven in the UK by BESA (the Building Engineering Services Association), CIBSE (the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) and FETA (the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations). 

The theme of the day was: ‘Improving Ventilation for a Healthier World’ and this was picked up more than five million times on social media networks in 30 countries. The website attracted over 15,000 visitors from 75 different countries and print media coverage had a reach of 382 million across 12 countries. 

High profile figures, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the UK’s chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance, Minister for Health Ireland Stephen Donnelly, and UK Green Party peer Natalie Bennett amplified the message through their own social networks. 

BESA Technical Director Graeme Fox, who was interviewed by a range of UK national news outlets and radio stations commented: “The level of global engagement was astonishing considering the campaign was only launched three weeks before the day itself – and with no budget.

“It shows that there is a huge appetite for information about this issue. People are genuinely worried about air pollution, but we were able to explain how they can take control of their indoor air quality (IAQ) by reviewing how their homes, offices, schools, and the public places they visit are ventilated.” 

Professor Noakes said: “Good ventilation is part of creating a sustainable and low carbon environment, by using technology to balance air quality, energy use and comfort. It is critical to making buildings more resilient to health threats including our regular battles with the transmission of colds and flu around crowded indoor spaces.” 

World Health Organisation Child Health Advocate Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah told the BESA event that the lack of effective building ventilation was directly linked to 3.8 million deaths worldwide every year.  

She said many more children would continue to die unless governments and the ventilation industry worked together to “fix this public health crisis”. 

She added: “The NHS will not be able to reduce its waiting lists until we clean up our air. It is also much easier to control the indoor air than the outdoor – so tackling IAQ is a great way to give people back power over their own environment and save lives.” 

World Ventilation Day also recognised the role played by engineers who implement the measures and strategies used to make buildings healthier and safer – highlighting the need for training and recruiting more skilled people to take on this growing global task.  

The website (worldventil8day.com) includes a range of free resources including ‘top facts’ about the role of ventilation, and different methods that can be adapted depending on the age, design, location, and purpose of the building. It also explains how building operators can manage the complex trade-off between ventilation, energy consumption, climate change, urban pollution, noise, comfort, and security.  

Fox said: The pandemic showed how well-ventilated spaces help to reduce the transmission of diseases in buildings. There are a wide range of solutions available, and most are low cost. 

“Basically, far too many buildings are simply under-ventilated, and this is just the start of an awareness raising campaign to encourage many more owners and operators to make this a priority and save millions of lives around the world.” 

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