Are your premises properly ventilated to prevent spread of Covid-19 as people return indoors?
By Sam Corlyon, Manager, Dixon Facilities Manager
With lockdown measures further easing across England – including allowing people back inside restaurants and pubs – the British Medical Association (BMA) has raised concerns that many premises may not be sufficiently ventilated to prevent airborne transmission of Covid-19.
Calling for the Government to issue ‘explicit specifications’ on ventilation requirements for pubs, bars and restaurants, workplaces and other public settings as they welcome the public back indoors, the BMA said the correct management of airflow in buildings is now ‘crucial’ to protect against a new wave of infections.
What are the concerns over airflow in buildings?
Many buildings over the past decade have become almost entirely reliant on air conditioning systems which bring little or no fresh air in from the outside as they simply recirculate the air within the premises themselves.
Whilst this is an issue which can perhaps be overcome during the summer months by opening windows aplenty, in the longer term, when winter returns, it is a less realistic option given nobody wants to sit at their work desk or at a restaurant table in their winter coat!
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) says the recirculation of air within a single room, where complemented by an outside air supply, is acceptable as it helps provide more outside air to occupants and can help to maintain thermal comfort.
However, it says the recirculation and transfer of air from one room to another should be avoided unless it is the only way of providing a sufficient rate to all occupied rooms.
It says the key actions now for owners of premises are to;
- Understand the ventilation systems and how they work with regards to fresh air supply
- Understand where poorly ventilated spaces or areas may be
- Increase the ventilation rate as much as reasonably possible
The law already says employers must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.
The likelihood now is that the Government will take heed of the BMA warnings and ultimately impose new specifications on ventilation.
For those found not to be meeting requirements that could mean having to send staff back home having reintegrated them back into office life, or having to reduce the numbers of people allowed in their restaurant or pub.
How can I check if my premises are a potential risk?
There are a few simple checks you can do to investigate whether your premises are not getting enough fresh air inside. Firstly, if you have areas where people work or congregate and there is no mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation such as open windows, doors or vents, it could be a risk.
It is important to check that any mechanical systems provide outdoor air, temperature control or both. If your system only recirculates air and has no outdoor air supply, the area is likely to be poorly ventilated. If an area of your premises often feels stuffy or smells, that could be another indicator of poor ventilation.
How can I improve my interior ventilation?
There are 3 main ways you can maximise the fresh air in an indoor space.
- Natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow - windows, doors and air vents that can be fully or partially opened.
- Mechanical ventilation - using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside.
- A combination of both – using natural and mechanical ventilation to optimise fresh air intake.
Have a premises airflow assessment from Dixon Group
The reality is that many owners of premises may now need to modify their systems to ensure sufficient levels of air from the outside is entering the building, reducing the airborne transmission of bacteria, and at Dixon Group, we can help with this task now.
Our specialist Facilities Management team at Dixon Group Ltd are highly experienced in the installation and maintenance of Air-Conditioning & Ventilation (HVAC) systems and we are currently providing assessments of airflows within buildings to check the amount of fresh air within premises is sufficient.