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The need for good air quality in local authority buildings and public spaces

The need for good air quality in local authority buildings and public spaces

We are all glad to welcome a little normality back to our lives, as the reopening is almost entirely complete. We can now visit leisure centres, libraries, and museums – and schools are back up to full capacity. These indoor public spaces are often crowded with people, which will naturally cause some anxiety for visitors.

For facility managers, good air ventilation is vital. These public spaces are bound by different legal requirements but all need to practice effective virus control. What is required in these local authority buildings, and what is desirable in a post-COVID world?

Leisure centres

There are no specific HSE requirements for air quality in a Leisure Centre although there are additional requirements for those with swimming pools, but this is in the treatment and management of the water environment.

However, in the wake of COVID, ventilation has been seen as an essential means to mitigate transmission of the virus inside. The measures suggested for gyms, for instance, focused on air extraction and ventilation. It is a room that naturally gets hot, as people are exerting themselves. It is tempting to believe that an air conditioning unit would be most desirable. However, Government guidance noted that air conditioning that just recirculates air is a risk. The high-velocity circulation created by such units allows larger viral aerosols to be airborne for longer and covering larger distances.

CIBSE added to this advice, noting that there should be 100% fresh air with no recirculation from one space to another. It also requires that Leisure Centres keep ventilation at maximum capacity, even though they are working at reduced occupancy, helping to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission.

Schools

There are not many schools across the country with mechanical ventilation to manage air quality throughout the whole building. Schools more likely rely on natural ventilation, such as opening windows and doors. Guidance post-COVID is that doors and windows should be opened for 10 minutes every hour and a room should be vacated regularly.

There are rooms within a school that do require mechanical extraction as per legislation, for instance, in kitchens to remove fumes and heat and in laboratories or technical workshops. These must be maintained regularly to ensure a safe environment, including the checking of filters for blockages that could cause a build-up of residue.

Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems (LEVs) used in fume cupboards must be tested every 14 months.

Libraries and Museums

As with leisure facilities, there are no specific HSE requirements for air quality in libraries and museums beyond adherence to the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. There are legal requirements such as mandatory No Smoking signs, as per the Health Act of 2006.

Issues of mechanical ventilation fall under the CIBSE advice to ensure 100% fresh air with no recirculation from one space to another. Yet, most management of higher risks from viruses will be achieved with the regular opening of windows and doors.

Transcool Systems can help the public sector to improve the quality of air that we breathe. Contact us today to discuss how we can support your public building facilities.