Indoor Air Quality Asessments and Testing

What is an indoor air quality assessment and why are they required?

In the UK, people spend around 80-90% of their time indoors. However, there is no overarching legislation setting ‘safe limits’ for pollutants in all indoor environments. Poor air quality can have both short-term and long-term health effects, with immediate symptoms including eye soreness, nausea, fatigue, and headaches. Poor air quality is also a known risk factor of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Parkinson’s. Poor indoor air is also bad for a business’ bottom line, with badly ventilated spaces known to reduce productivity and increase absences due to illness. The Covid-19 pandemic has also shed further light on the importance of good indoor air quality and ventilation as a means to reduce transmission or viruses, and other pathogens.

Indoor air pollution is a complex mix of pollutants originating from inside, outside (e.g. car traffic) and the ground (e.g. radon and landfill gases). Common sources of indoor air pollution include cooking, off-gassing materials, new furnishings, perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products and dusts. Couple the number of different sources with different occupancy patterns and uses for indoor environments and you soon realise that the management of indoor air quality is complex, and a holistic approach is required to manage it.

As previously mentioned, there are no overarching regulations in the UK which set air pollution limits in all indoor environments, and the existing thresholds are made up of a patchwork of regulations. Part F of the Building Regulations provides guidance covering ventilation requirements of new buildings and the Health & Safety Executive’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations set exposure limits of some hazardous pollutants. There is also some regulation dedicated to controlling emissions of pollutants, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), in indoor environments. However, much of the drive for Indoor Air Quality Assessments comes from building certification schemes such as BREEAM, LEED and WELL.

Workplace Exposure Assessments

The COSHH regulations include a series of Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs), which set thresholds for pollutant concentrations in workplaces (including indoor environments).

The most common type of assessment associated with WELs relate to dust exposure, specifically inhalable and respirable dusts. Inhalable dusts refer to particles that are small enough to enter the nose and mouth when breathing normally that may deposit in the respiratory tract, whilst respirable dusts refer to smaller particles that can be inhaled into lower gas exchange region of the lung. Respirable dusts have a far greater potential health effect due to their ability to find their way deeper into the body, and are therefore subject to lower thresholds.

Our assessments for measuring dust exposure are undertaken in line with HSE guidance, and we partner with UKAS accredited laboratories for analysing samples.

BREEAM HEA 02 Indoor Air Quality Plan

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, or BREEAM as it is better known, is a sustainability assessment that rates the environmental performance of buildings through its design, specification and construction and operational phases. A key part of BREEAM assessment relates to health and wellbeing and in 2018 BREEAM released a new scheme, which placed a greater emphasis on indoor air quality. BREEAM’s credit HEA 02 Indoor Air Quality’s aim is:

“To recognise and encourage a healthy internal environment through the specification and installation of appropriate ventilation, equipment and finishes.”

There are up to four credits associated with HEA 02, which are summarised below:

  • Ventilation (one credit): where it can be evidenced that the buildings has been designed to minimise indoor pollution concentrations through an appropriate ventilation strategy.
  • The choice of construction products which meet emissions limits for VOCs and formaldehyde (up to two credits):
  • the undertaking of post-construction indoor air quality measurement to demonstrate air quality is good enough pre-occupation (one credit).

However, to access these credits, BREEAM 2018 dictates that an indoor air quality plan must also be provided. Greenavon’ s Indoor Air Quality Plans are undertaken in line with BRE GN06 guidance and consider the:

  1. Removal of contaminant sources.
  2. Dilution and control of contaminant sources
  3. Procedures for pre-occupancy flush out
  4. Third party testing and analysis
  5. Maintaining indoor air quality in-use

The aspect, location, and configuration of the building, as well as location of air intakes and windows and building products used, can influence indoor air quality. The ventilation strategy is also essential at preventing the build-up of indoor air pollutants, through the specification of appropriate ventilation rates and air purification technologies.

Post construction air quality testing (BREEAM HEA 02)

The final HEA 02 credit relates to air quality testing of formaldehyde and total VOCs, post construction but pre-occupation to ensure that pollution levels are below WHO guidelines. Where pollution concentrations exceed these values, it is recommended that ventilation rates are increased to ‘flush-out’ pollutants prior to occupation.

Greenavon can undertake air quality monitoring in accordance with BREEAM HEA 02 requirements, in partnership with UKAS accredited labs.

How can Greenavon Help?

Greenavon are experts in the provision of Indoor Air Quality Assessments and Indoor Air Quality Tests. All our work is carried out work in accordance with best practice guidance from the IAQM, CISBE, PHE and the AGEG. If you would like any advice or support with Indoor Air Quality, please do not hesitate get in contact.

Business Hours

Greenavon can sometimes complete work outside regular hours, upon request.

8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 6:00 pm
8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Office Address

128 City Road, London, United Kingdom, EC1V 2NX

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