News Release

Blueprint for mandating indoor air quality for public buildings in form of standards

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Queensland University of Technology

QUT Professor Lidia Morawska


Professor Morawska is leading international experts presenting a blueprint for national indoor quality standards for public buildings.

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Credit: QUT

  • International experts set out standards for monitoring three key indoor pollutants
  • Adequate ventilation for number of occupants and activities must be taken into account
  • Carbon dioxide and PM2.5 particles and carbon monoxide are three pollutants requiring monitoring to assess healthy

    The experts addressed setting standards for three key indoor pollutants – carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), PM2.5 which are particles so small they can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream - and ventilation rate.

    Distinguished Professor Morawska, from the QUT School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, internationally known, among others, for leading the appeal to the WHO to recognise the airborne transmission spread of the Covid-19 virus early in the pandemic, has continued to raise the importance of adequate indoor air quality for public spaces.

    “M­­­ost countries do not have any legislated indoor air quality (IAQ) performance standards for public spaces that address concentration levels of IA pollutants,” Professor Morawska said.

    “To have practical value, IAQ standards must be implementable by designing new buildings that are built, operated and maintained to standard or retrofitted to meet the standards.

    “While there is a cost in the short term, the social and economic benefits to public health, wellbeing and productivity will likely far outweigh the investment in cost in achieving clean indoor air.”

    Professor Morawska said CO2 sensors were readily available, inexpensive and robust and should be used as a proxy to measure pathogens and CO2 during human occupancy in a public space.

    “CO2 can serve as a proxy for occupant-emitted contaminants and pathogens and to effectively assess ventilation quality,” she said.

    “We propose a CO2 concentration level of 800ppm with the proviso that outdoor concentration is used as a baseline and recognition of the fact that outdoor concentrations are increasing due to emissions to the atmosphere that outweigh removal.

    “Another key indicator of air quality we addressed is the amount of PM2.5 and we propose the WHO air quality guidelines as a basis for indoor air quality standards but with a 1-hour averaging time, as the 24 hours of the WHO AQG is much longer than people usually spend in public places.”

    Professor Morawska said mechanical ventilation systems should remove and dilute human-emitted and other indoor-generated pollutants at a higher rate than their production so that they would not accumulate in indoor air.

    “The technologies for measuring ventilation already exist in most modern mechanically ventilated buildings but monitoring ventilation rates in terms of clean air delivered to the space requires us to consider the number of people and their activities in the space to ensure adequate IAQ.

    “A practical ventilation standard could be air from outside (assumed to be clean), or clean recirculated air to the entire occupied zone and with airflow not directed from one person to another.

    Additional measures in support of ventilation, such as air cleaning and disinfection, could greatly reduce the need to increase the outdoor air supply, which carries a heavy energy demand.

    “Filtering recirculated air is an effective way to reduce concentration of, and thus our exposure to, airborne particulate matter, allergens and pathogens.”

    Mandating indoor air quality standards in public buildings was published in Science.

    The expert contributors were  Professor Morawska, Professor Belinda Bennett, and Professor Amanda Kennedy, QUT, Australia; Associate Professor Joseph Allen, Harvard University, USA; Professor William Bahnfleth, The Pennsylvania State University, USA; Professor Philomena M. Bluyssen and Professor Atze Boerstra, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands; Professor Giorgio Buonanno, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Cassino, Italy; Professor Junji Cao, Chinese Academy of Science, China; Professor Stephanie J. Dancer, Edinburgh Napier University, UK; Professor Andres Floto and Dr Charles Haworth, University of Cambridge, UK; Francesco Franchimon, Franchimon ICM, The Netherlands;  Professor Trish Greenhalgh, University of Oxford, UK;  Jaap Hogeling, International Standards at ISSO, The Netherlands;  Associate Professor Christina Isaxon and Associate Professor Aneta Wierzbicka, Lund University, Sweden;  Professor Jose L. Jimenez and Professor Shelly L. Miller, University of Colorado, USA; Professor Prashant Kumar, University of Surrey, UK; Professor Jarek Kurnitski, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia;  Professor Yuguo Li, University of Hong Kong, China;  Associate Professor Marcel Loomans, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands;  Professor Guy Marks, University of New South Wales;  Professor Linsey C. Marr, Virginia Tech, USA, Professor Livio Mazzarella, Politecnico di Milano, Italy; Professor Arsen Krikor Melikov and Professor Pawel Wargocki, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark;  Professor Donald K. Milton, University of Maryland;  Professor Jason Monty, University of Melbourne, Australia; Associate Professor Peter V. Nielsen, Aalborg University, Denmark; Professor Catherine Noakes, University of Leeds, UK; Professor Jordan Peccia, Yale University, USA; Professor Kimberly A. Prather, University of California, USA; Professor Xavier Querol, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spain; Professor Tunga Salthammer, Fraunhofer WKI, Germany; Professor Chandra Sekhar  and Associate Professor Kwok Wai Tam, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Associate Professor Olli Seppänen, Aalto University Finland;  Professor Shin-ichi Tanabe, Waseda University, Japan; Associate Professor Julian W. Tang, University of Leicester, UK;  Associate Professor Raymond Tellier, McGill University, Canada; Professor Maosheng Yao,, Peking University, China.

    ventilation levels

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