IAQ Insight: Wellbeing standard for buildings will save lives

In the first of our series of articles on IAQ from BESA, we focus on a world-first buildings wellbeing standard.

The first technical standard for health and wellbeing in buildings in the world will save thousands of lives, according to the group of engineers and healthcare specialists behind its development.

The British Standard 40102 (Part One) was created to support delivery of another unique piece of legislation – the 2015 Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, passed by the government of Wales:

BS40102 was showcased at the recent COP28 international climate conference in Dubai and is being widely adopted in the Middle East to help address that region’s particular air quality issues.

“If the building engineering community starts working to the standard, it will make a huge difference to the life expectancy and quality of life of millions of building occupants all over the world,” says the standard’s sponsor and champion Dave Kieft, chairman of the Swansea-based (IAQ) specialist EFT Consult. Dave was also one of the panelists on elemental’s recent IAQ webinar.

BS40102, which will be formally launched in the UK later this year, provides recommendations for measuring, monitoring, and reporting indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in all types of non-domestic buildings. It includes an evaluation and rating system for air quality, lighting, thermal comfort, and acoustics.

According to Dave, those involved in developing the standard were inspired to reduce the costs associated with ill-health and the pressures exerted on public services by poor IEQ in new and existing buildings and to support the wellbeing needs of ‘current and future generations.’

He believes the standard will see facilities managers and buildings operators play an increasingly important healthcare role:

“The exponential rise in respiratory illnesses and other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and impaired mental health, particularly among the young, can be directly linked to poor IEQ and the fact that they spend more than 90% of their time indoors.”

In the UK, we spend almost £1bn a year on asthma inhalers, yet thousands of sufferers continue to live in poorly ventilated, damp conditions that exacerbate their conditions, he says:

“Doctors can prescribe medicines that treat the symptoms, but they cannot address the root causes,” he says, “There are massive implications for the NHS if engineers, facilities managers, and others improve the design and maintenance of indoor spaces – including improving the ventilation.”

If a building were to meet the requirements of the standard there would be huge benefits to occupants, Dave notes, such as improve cognitive function and productivity and reducing fatigue and stress. But there would also be significant benefits to the bottom line, as Improving buildings to address well-being would also reduce running costs, since the level of control and automation needed to achieve better IEQ would also improve energy efficiency.

The evaluation contained in BS40102 gives building managers a benchmark score to help them identify areas of below par performance, so they can plan improvements and include IEQ measures in any retrofit and renovation work – including tackling the growing threat of overheating.

EFT Consult first laid the groundwork through its development with the British Standards Institute of a ‘publicly available specification’, better known as a PAS, to help implement the built environment- elements of the Welsh legislation.

However, after Covid-19 struck in 2020, the BSI decided to fast-track PAS 3003 to a full British Standard. The pandemic highlighted the role played by poor quality indoor environments in the spread of viruses and other airborne contaminants.

Meeting the new standard

To meet the requirements of the new standard, organisations will need to tackle conditions that have a direct impact on human health. These include humidity and excessive levels of CO2, Carbon Monoxide, NO2, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), airborne particulates and mould.

Dave Kieft urges building owners and managers to use their investment in IEQ as a marketing opportunity: “This is a great way to increase loyalty among existing employees, tenants, and customers and attract new ones. People feel more valued if their living spaces and workplaces are healthier and more comfortable,” he says.

However, he notes that the ‘battle’ between upfront capital investment and ongoing operating costs as a considerable barrier to the adoption of best practice:

“The curse of so-called value engineering – which is really devalue engineering – means that many of the measures crucial to better IEQ are removed before they can be installed. It is the FM team who are then left to try and pick up the pieces.”

However, he adds, if we change the argument by using wellbeing and respiratory health as the driver, the need to safeguard health and wellbeing can drive change: “Also, if you lead with wellbeing, you get energy reduction and carbon saving benefits as well – but it doesn’t work the other way around.”

The importance of data

BESA, the Building Services Engineering Association, also highlights the importance of capturing high quality data to assess the nature of IEQ problems, so that solutions can be ‘appropriate and effective.’

“While there is now a proliferation of sensor technology on the market able to measure and monitor airborne pollutants, temperature, humidity, moisture etc. not all can be relied on to provide accurate information, the Association says.

Nathan Wood, chair of BESA’s Indoor Air Quality group, notes that access to robust data will be vital to support political developments such as the proposed new Clean Air Act currently being considered by the UK government.

“This new standard could not have come at a more important time,” said Nathan, “While the industry has known about the problem for many years, we tended to work to different standards and, often, people simply picked a benchmark they could achieve rather than a solution that would address the problem.”

The country has also adopted ‘Awaab’s Law’ in response to the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak linked to mould and damp conditions in his Rochdale flat. This imposes strict deadlines on landlords to address damp and mould conditions as part of the Social Housing Regulations.

These considerations will be reflected in Part Two of BS40102 which is dedicated to residential buildings and whichis due to be drafted later this year.

Insurance consequences

The insurance industry is also starting to make its presence felt in this area following the significant changes brought about by the Building Safety Act 2022.

“Achieving higher standards of IEQ in the workplace to protect people’s health and well-being is now being included in insurance audits,” stresses Nathan Wood, “Clients will, therefore, be pushing their ventilation contractors harder to provide real evidence referenced to industry best practice that their indoor spaces are safe and healthy.”

BESA says it intends to help to drive adoption of BS40102 by collaborating with other industry bodies and working to raise levels of competence in the ventilation industry, with new training courses and certification aligned to the standard’s requirements.

BESA will be at the InstallerSHOW on June 25-27, with IAQ among the key themes being discussed in elemental’s content theatres.