The second annual World Ventilation Day (WV8D) on November 8th has noted a direct link between failure to invest in improving ventilation and serious health problems linked to buildings.
The initiative, which is supported by professional and trade bodies, universities, and environmental groups worldwide, aims to raise awareness of the vital role played by ventilation in supporting people’s health, well-being, and productivity.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that exposure to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is directly linked to 3.8 million premature deaths worldwide every year.
Last year’s inaugural WV8D (#WorldVentil8Day) saw webinars, in person talks, new research, and a range of ventilation experiments carried out on the day 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.
This year’s theme was ‘Breathe Better Live Better’ and the organisers planned to demonstrate how improving ventilation systems and raising awareness can address growing alarm over premature deaths linked to IAQ, mould and damp in homes, and other sources of indoor pollutants including smoking and traffic emissions.
Last year’s messages were picked up more than five million times on social media networks in 30 countries. The website also attracted over 15,000 visitors from 75 different countries and print media coverage had a reach of 382 million across 12 countries. This year, more events are planned worldwide as the focus on improving air quality grows internationally.
Damp and mould
For the UK, the political stakes are arguably even higher with renewed focus on damp conditions in social housing following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, which prompted the government to introduce ‘Awaab’s Law’ setting out new requirements for landlords to address damp and mould in social homes. It also reviewed the Decent Homes Standard which will apply to private rented homes for the first time.
There is also growing support for the proposed Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill dubbed ‘Ella’s Law’ in memory of Ella Kissi-Debrah – the first person in the world to have air pollution recorded as her cause of death.
The Bill was approved by the House of Lords on the 70th anniversary of the Great Smog and has now moved to the House of Commons where it is being sponsored by Caroline Lucas MP. 10,000 people have signed a petition in support of the new law and campaigners are pushing to raise that figure to 100,000 to trigger a debate in Parliament.
Ella’s mother Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah said the Bill would give the UK “the best air quality law in the world and improve the health of the nation”. She said it would be crucial to addressing the fact that there are 7.7 million people on NHS waiting lists.
“Ella’s Law would tackle air pollution and greenhouse gases together to improve public health, the environment and the climate,” she said. “It would also exceed the European Commission’s latest proposals for the revision of ambient air quality laws and establish a pathway to comply with the WHO’s new guidelines by 2033.”
WVD is co-ordinated by the UK’s Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) which is also staging a social media debate involving leading industry, academic and political figures, including Professor Cath Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at the University of Leeds.
“Good ventilation is part of creating a sustainable and low carbon environment, by using technology to balance air quality, energy use and comfort,” said Professor Noakes. “It is critical to making buildings more resilient to health threats including our regular battles with the transmission of respiratory infections in crowded indoor spaces.”
She said it was important for governments to set “realistic but ambitious targets” so the ventilation industry could work towards “fixing this growing public health crisis”.
WV8D recognises the role played by the ventilation companies and 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 WV8D website 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.
BESA will also unveil new guidance for addressing mould and damp in buildings during WV8D. This was produced in partnership with the manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric and follows the three free guides launched last year to help building owners, managers and facilities managers improve their IAQ and turn buildings into ‘safe havens’ from air pollution.
“The Covid-19 pandemic showed how well-ventilated spaces help to reduce the transmission of diseases in buildings,” said Graeme Fox, technical director of BESA. “There are a wide range of solutions available, and most are low cost.
“Most countries share a similar problem: Far too many buildings are simply under-ventilated. WV8D is an important part of our growing awareness campaign to encourage building owners and operators to make this a priority and help to save millions of lives around the world by investing in upgrading their ventilation systems.”