On 28th September 2022, Breathing City (FUVN), TAPAS and ICP-ERG jointly hosted an in-person event in White City Campus, Imperial College London, which engaged discussions from academia, industry, and public policy around ‘Understanding IAQ for healthy buildings in a net zero world’ and focussed on early career researchers and indoor air studies. We heard presentations across a range of IAQ topics including monitoring, characterization methods, ventilation studies, modelling, IAQ health assessments and behavioural studies.
The talks were not recorded but many of the speakers were able to share their slides which you can access via the links below.
Plenary speaker, Corinne Mandin who headed up the French IAQ Observatory, talked on the rising issues and future challenges of indoor air quality in the global context of climate change, increasing urbanization and decline in biodiversity. Corinne emphasized the importance of IAQ monitoring, including with low-cost sensors, and the challenge in identifying the key, emerging compounds. She also highlighted that an integrated approach is needed to incorporate other indoor environmental factors such as thermal comfort, acoustics and light, particularly if retrofitting becomes more popular. The current pandemic has helped to raise awareness of IAQ but a paradigm shift is needed to tackle research, technical and communications challenges of IAQ.
Our second plenary speaker, Associate Professor Liora Malki-Epshtein, talked on rapid IAQ monitoring at large scale events and her teams’ involvement in the events research programme which was one of the UK government’s Roadmap Reviews for moving out of the pandemic. The aim of this project was to better understand the risks relating to transmission at live events, particularly airborne transmission, and its relation to ventilation strategies. The findings from this study were instrumental to inform decision making and contributed to large, mass-participation events in the UK being re-opened following their closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The day ended with an expert panel discussion made up of experts in the field of ventilation and air quality. They focussed their discussion on indoor air quality in a net zero world and what this means in the current energy crisis. The session was chaired by Henry Burridge, senior lecturer at Imperial College London and included:
The panel opened by addressing the imminent crisis of rising energy costs as winter approaches and questioned how we can find balance between ventilating our buildings and conserving energy, particularly as the public’s interest in ventilation is starting to wane. It was debated if clean air had to be provided to buildings all the time and how energy could be saved by reducing energy usage in buildings when not in use. This could help to save energy, depending on the age and state of the building, but we must take into account how this will affect the building itself, with humidity increase and mould growth. It was also acknowledged that the current energy crisis should be separated out from net zero as we need actionable solutions for this winter (practical guidance, risk assessments etc) compared with a long-term plan for net zero (retrofit, design of systems, systemic thinking, update building regulations). The panel then discussed how air pollution plays a role in how we ventilate our buildings and the importance of focussing on emissions rather than pollution. A balance must be struck between ventilation and pollution ingress to the building. When we open our windows, high pollution may come in, therefore we need to concentrate on reducing these emissions. The panel wrapped up by emphasising the importance of including the health community in a UK observatory and highlighted the value of evaluating health impacts and economic costs, as this information is essential to convince people and make progress.
written by Dr. Kat Roberts from the TAPAS network