What is an air quality assessment and why is it required?
The term ‘air quality’ describes how polluted the air is, in both indoor and outdoor environments. There are many different types of pollutants which impact air quality, including pollen, pathogens, mould spores, dusts, smoke and airborne chemicals from combustion. The effects of air pollution and poor air quality are wide-ranging. For example, an office with too high concentrations of carbon dioxide can result in increased worker fatigue and a reduction in productivity. The presence of hazardous pollutants in the air can cause symptoms such as dizziness, eye irritation and lung damage. Furthermore, long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to many chronic health conditions such as alzeihmer’s and cardiovascular disease. Some pollutants are defined as having “no safe level” and as such, the assessment of air quality is essential to manage public health risk and deliver clean air for all.
The assessment of air quality is generally divided into outdoor or ambient air quality assessments and indoor air quality assessments. Outdoor air quality assessments generally focus on assessing adherence to national and international air quality standards and guidelines. They ore often undertaken as part of planning applications or by local authorities as part of their Local Air Quality Management responsibilities. In the UK, there are no air quality standards applicable to all indoor environments and as indoor environments tend to be more complex, the reasons for requiring indoor air quality assessments are varied. However common reasons include overcoming ‘sick building syndrome‘, promoting productivity and gaining credits associated with certification schemes such as LEED, BREEAM and WELL.
Greenavon are experts in the assessment of outdoor air quality and indoor air quality, and provides a range of air quality services to clients across the UK, including air quality monitoring and dispersion modelling assessments.
Air Quality Assessments for Planning
Air quality assessments are often required to support planning applications where a proposal might cause significant changes in traffic flows or if they are located in Air Quality Management Areas. Air Quality Management Areas are locations of known poor air quality where the national air quality standards are exceeded. These are often located in urban areas, next to busy roads. Air quality assessments must consider whether a proposal would expose future users to unacceptable air quality, cause impacts at existing locations such as schools and hospitals and suggest design solutions, where appropriate.
All Greenavon’s air quality assessments are undertaken in line with best practice Institute of Air Quality Management guidance. For each proposal, we review its size, consider local planning policy and guidance and undertake a baseline air quality assessment to suggest an appropriate scope of work. For smaller projects in areas of good air quality, simple air quality assessments, or screening air quality assessments are often all that is required. These types of assessment use existing data sources such as freely available monitoring data provided by local authorities to assess a scheme’s impact on, and sensitivity to, air pollution. For larger proposals where there are potentially significant increases in local traffic flows, or those in air quality management areas, detailed air quality assessments involving dispersion modelling are usually required. Detailed dispersion models are used to predict pollution concentrations at specific locations.
Regardless, all air quality assessments suitable for planning must include a thorough review of baseline air quality, an assessment of the construction phase and the operational phase, via screening, monitoring or modelling, and a recommendation of mitigation to minimise emissions. Further detail of some of the methods we use to assess air quality during the construction and operational phases of a development are set out below.
Whilst the requirements for air quality assessments are largely consistent across the UK. There are several local authorities with particular requirements. In London, for example, development must demonstrate compliance with air quality neutral and the air quality positive policy.
Air Quality Assessment Services
Greenavon provides a comprehensive suite of services relating to air quality assessment, including for both planning and environmental permitting purposes. Our air quality assessment services include the provision of:
- Monitoring: including the use of diffusion tubes, low-cost sensors, MCerts continuous particulate matter monitors, dust deposition gauges and sticky pads.
- Modelling: including the modelling of road and industrial sources using next generation air dispersion software, such as ADMS and ADMS-Roads.
- Mitigation: including the provision of air quality mitigation statements and other similar documents, in line with various local guidance documents.
- Local Air Quality Management: we can support local authorities with the production of Air Quality Annual Status Reports and Air Quality Action Plans.
- Indoor Air Quality: we can help you access BREEAM (HEA 02 and POL 02), WELL and LEED credits, as well as occupational exposure testing.
- Environmental Permitting Applications: we can provide modelling and consultancy support for environmental permit applications.
- Air Quality Neutral Assessments: All development are required to provide an air quality neutral assessment; however, some minor development can follow a simplified assessment procedure.
- Air Quality Positive Statements: Major development in London are required to demonstrate how air quality influenced design through the provision of an air quality positive statement.
- Construction Environmental Management Plans and Dust Management Plans: These plans are often required to discharge planning conditions, and require the provision of construction dust risk assessments.
How Greenavon can help?
Greenavon has sigificant expertise in providing air quality consultancy services for a wide range of public and private sector clients. All our assessments are undertaken in line with guidance provided by the Institute of Air Quality Management, local planning guidance and Defra. For a free consultation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.