London Air Quality Worse Indoors Than on the Streets According to New Research

New research, to be published this month by We Design For…, has revealed that the indoor air standards of many buildings in London are failing to comply with World Health Organisation guidance and Building Regulations.

Data collected from the study conducted in September 2017, showed that the indoor air quality within both public and private spaces such as commercial offices, retail spaces, residential houses and apartments is consistently poor. In many cases, it is actually worse indoors than out, meaning fresh air supplies are far from fresh – and could pose a long-term health risk.

The We Design For… research concludes that properties is Central, North London and Wycombe are exceeding particulate matter guidance limits by up to 520% and that it is unlikely that many of the buildings they have tested comply with the Building Regulations annual mean limit for NO2.

Building Regulations state that exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) should not exceed 288 μg/m over a one-hour average, and 40 μg/m over a long-term average.

All buildings are required by law to provide a certain level of ventilation, to help reduce the risk of damp and condensation, prevent the build-up of bacteria and remove allergens and pollutants. However, as the air being brought into homes and offices is not ‘fresh’, the process can become counterproductive.

Dr. Dominic Clyde-Smith, UCL and Head of Research at We Design For… said: “Our test results have highlighted that ventilation alone is not a viable solution and that recognised industry guidance regarding the control of ventilation systems and location of fresh air intakes needs updating. What we are seeing in London is conclusive evidence that the ventilation and filtration systems simply aren’t up to the task – leaving Londoners to breathe in pollutants and harmful particulates at levels that are far from safe.”

“As an industry we need to design for appropriate levels of filtration and look to reduce sources of air pollution. It is unfortunate that the failings of our government to tackle illegal air pollution have created this problem, but this is a problem that we are very capable of solving.”

Pete Carvell, Director at We Design For…said: “There has been a lot of debate recently about harmful pollution and degrading air quality. People tend to believe that the widely publicised effects of air pollution do not affect them when they are indoors; either at home or at work – they assume that the air indoors is cleaner than on the street. Our results prove that this is simply not the case and that conditions indoors are actually often worse.

“We believe that more people need to be made aware of this – our results show conclusively that urban dwellers need to be asking more questions about their indoor air quality. We need to be looking at what we can do to make indoor air quality better, just as we work to reduce outdoor air pollution.”

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