8 November 2022

Scientists and engineers join forces to champion building ventilation

An international awareness campaign to promote the critical role of better building ventilation supporting health, well-being, and productivity has been launched by a coalition of scientists, academics, engineering bodies and environmental activists.

Ventilation

An international awareness campaign to promote the critical role of better building ventilation in supporting health, well-being, and productivity has been launched by a coalition of scientists, academics, engineering bodies and environmental activists, including The University of Sheffield.

The first annual World Ventil8 Day (#WorldVentil8Day) takes place today (November 8) and will involve a series of ‘in person’ and online events and discussions around the world.

Spearheaded by leading healthy building champion Professor Cath Noakes OBE, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at the University of Leeds, the campaign is being driven by UK bodies BESA (the Building Engineering Services Association), CIBSE (the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers), IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) and FETA (the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations).

They are working in partnership with international partners AREA (the umbrella body for European contractors’ organisations), ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) and UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme).

Dr Abigail Hathway from our Department of Civil and Structural Engineering is backing the initiative, along with academics from the universities of Nottingham, Leeds, Loughborough, Strathclyde, and Imperial College London, many of whom are part of the Future Urban Ventilation Network. 

The overarching ambition is ‘Improving Ventilation for a Healthier World’ and this year the theme aims to celebrate ventilation through a series of events and knowledge sharing. The campaign will showcase powerful scientific and practical evidence demonstrating how good ventilation can reduce exposure to air pollutants and infectious diseases, which aids human productivity, improves sleep, and reduces mould and damp in buildings. 

“Good ventilation is part of creating a sustainable and low carbon environment, by using technology well 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 colds and flu around crowded indoor spaces.”

Dr Hathway added: “Ventilation is essential to reduce and remove indoor pollutants (whether infectious diseases, cooking fumes or from cleaning products). Unfortunately, it is often not considered and many buildings have been adapted over time based on thermal efficiency with no consideration of allowing in good amounts of fresh air. We’re working closely with Sheffield City Council to investigate ventilation in small and medium scale hospitality venues, and how this could be improved with an aim of providing healthier indoor environments for both customers and staff.”

As well as showcasing the range of ventilation solutions available to building owners and occupiers, World Ventilation Day will recognise the skilled people 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. 

Visit worldventil8day.com for more information – the 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.

People and organisations are encouraged to share relevant reports, standards, or studies, run a CPD event, give a talk or organise a workshop or activity for a school or community group to help promote healthy and sustainable ventilation.

To make buildings more resilient we need both short-term solutions and long-term strategies,” said BESA’s head of technical Graeme Fox. “For example, local air cleaners based on HEPA filtration or UVC disinfection are important tools, but they are not an alternative to improving the general ventilation either through natural or mechanical means. 

“Far too many buildings are simply under-ventilated and by raising awareness we hope to encourage many more owners and operators to make this a much higher priority and so safeguard the health and well-being of millions of people around the world.”