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Proposals state that all new commercial buildings must make provisions for better air quality and increased ventilation to benefit occupiers, following the advice of numerous studies that highlight how air conditioning has contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The recent publication of The Future Building Standards sets out proposals for increasing the quality of air distribution around new commercial premises, with higher fresh air provision and reduced stale air recirculation described as the key issues to be addressed.
The proposal states “that each occupiable room in the building should be capable of providing fresh air at rates 50% higher than the…[current] minimum standard”
Moreover, new systems should abide by standards that possess a functionality to, if required, “operate in a mode which prevents the ventilation system recirculating air within spaces or between different spaces, rooms or zones within offices, unless suitable filtering or cleaning systems are in place.”
Similarly, in line with recent smart building developments, the proposals require that all new system installations must possess the ability to monitor air quality and ventilation performance throughout the premises.
It is therefore hoped that, should another pandemic impact on commercial environments, these systems can function at their optimum level to reduce the risk of transmission and permit staff to use their workplaces safely.
Though these proposals have come under fire from developers, who believe that the cost of implementing these new measures will be entirely theirs to bear, others have stressed how necessary these steps are to increasing occupier health in years to come.
Indeed, Francesca Brady, the CEO of air quality certifier AirRated, commented in The Times that:
“Any extra costs that are incurred with improved ventilation are completely outweighed by the positive benefits, both in increased occupant health and also through productivity gains, as proven by academic research.”