Can Air Quality Control COVID-19?

The importance of good indoor air quality has never been more significant than right now and it follows that the subject has never been discussed quite so regularly, and by mainstream media.

The scientific evidence is becoming clear

There is a growing weight of international scientific evidence that promotes effective ventilation and well-regulated atmospheric moisture contents as a highly effective control on the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Refreshing air quickly from occupied spaces and maintaining a relative humidity between 40% and 60% are being promoted by governments and academics around the world. This position is based on a rapidly growing catalogue of international research and scientific literature dealing with the subject.

Similarities between mould growth and the Coronavirus

Though I am no virologist, or for that matter a mycologist, the similarities between the conditions needed to allow the active growth of surface mould and the preservation of viable virus, appear to be quite similar.

As well as virus and mould, homes and workplaces can also be affected by the build-up of ground gases that come from the underlying rocks or as a result of contamination or pollution, such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Volatile organic compounds from paints, coatings, building products and furniture, pesticide and cleaning residues as well as dust, fibres, pollen and the irritant biproduct of dust mites, are all regularly found floating around in the air within buildings.

Though most of these pollutants can have the effect of shortening our lives or making some people unwell, for the most part, and unless someone has an acute sensitivity to one or other of pollutant, we tend to ignore them, live with them and only act if the walls turn green.

Good Health = Fresh Air and Ventilation

The one thing that reduces the likelihood of all health problems from all these airborne contaminants is fresh air and ventilation. Not the recirculation of air, but the removal of air from within the occupied space and replacing it with fresh, clean air from outside.

In summer, air exchange is relatively easy. Opening windows and letting the air blow through your house or office is as effective and free! People with severe hay fever or those who live right next to the M6 might disagree, but generally, this assertion is true.

Winter is the challenge!

The winter months are more of a challenge. As the thermometer drops and the heating goes on, we do what we can to retain energy. As a result, we wrap ourselves up and the quality of indoor air tends to diminish. This is where a growing number of domestic, commercial, social and educational buildings rely on mechanical ventilation systems to keep a moisture balance and deliver clean air that helps to keep individuals fit and healthy.

Perhaps for the first time in my professional memory the basic principles of maintaining good, and therefore healthy air quality, is being routinely discussed by journalists on the nine o’clock news.

Now is the time to act – PCA members can help

Shops, offices, schools, care homes and hospitals should be looking very carefully at their provision for winter air exchange right now and doing something about it if it is inadequate. Likewise if any homeowner has a winter mould problem then you also have an environment that is conducive to keeping virus viable for longer.

Whether maintaining and servicing an existing extractor system, or renewing or installing new systems from scratch, understanding how to design and install a ventilation system as well as maintaining and servicing them is a specialist job and should be put into the hands of professionals.

Even a great many building professionals do not know, forget or overlook the fact that the installation and commissioning of ventilation systems is covered and regulated by Part F of the Building Regulations; and that installations must be commissioned by a qualified installer who is registered to a competent persons scheme, or be registered and inspected with local authority building control.

Improving indoor air quality is vital

It is our view that everything should be done to contain the spread of not only the corona virus but to eliminate mould and improve air quality in all buildings. Atmospheric moisture balance and understanding internal air pollution is well understood by many PCA members. This issue is the subject of a long term research partnership between PCA and University College London (UCL) and the ongoing development of a diagnostic tool for building professionals.

Clean air is good for us and now must be the time to act to deliver this before the nights start drawing in and the central heating goes on.

As always, we are here for our members so please get in touch on 01480 400000 or via email on pca@property-care.org for more information.

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