Interior of a train station

BRE’s research and expertise supports Defra’s indoor air quality report

Train station ftd image | BRE Group

BRE has provided technical content and expertise on indoor air quality (IAQ) for Defra’s indoor air quality report. People spend a substantial amount of their lives indoors (often 80 to 90%) and indoor environments can represent significant exposure to air pollution.

Developed by the Defra Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), the report provides a substantive assessment of the current thinking and research gaps in IAQ. Indoor environments are diverse, and the behaviour of pollutants within them is determined by a range of complex chemical and physical processes.

The report focuses on air pollutants in residential indoor environments, people’s exposure in commuting and transport hubs, retail spaces and sports venues and locations with vulnerable populations. It examines the evidence available and highlights challenges and opportunities for improvements.

The main recommendations of the report cover:
• Emissions and sources.
• Pollutant distribution, trends, and effects.
• Measurement of IAQ.
• Interventions and actions to improve IAQ.

The report highlights the fact that types of pollution found indoors may be significantly different to those found outdoors. Mould and damp can lead to higher concentrations of biological aerosols when compared to those found typically outdoors.

The indoor environment can also accumulate much higher concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than are found outdoors in the UK, through their release from construction and furnishing materials and the use of cleaning and personal care products.

“We would like to see much more ‘fit-for-purpose’ measurement of IAQ as a routine step, rather than waiting until problems arise, which increases the risks to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as performance at work and in education – Dr Andy Dengel, Head of Indoor Air Quality Testing at BRE, and an ad hoc member of AQEG

Dr Andy Dengel, Head of Indoor Air Quality Testing at BRE, and an ad hoc member of AQEG, said “BRE has long been an advocate for research into indoor air quality and is calling for better awareness, measurement, and standards.

“This report for Defra reflects the work we are doing at BRE on indoor air quality and indoor environmental quality, as we explore ways of monitoring and improving these factors in the built environment.

“As part of the report, we helped to identify key IAQ parameters, explain the need for appropriate ventilation and source control, and document how to measure and mitigate for indoor air pollutants.

“We would like to see much more ‘fit-for-purpose’ measurement of IAQ as a routine step, rather than waiting until problems arise, which increases the risks to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as performance at work and in education.”

The Defra AQEG is an Expert Committee to Defra that provides independent scientific advice on air quality, in particular the air pollutants contained in the 2019 Clean Air Strategy, the Air Quality Strategy (AQS) for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and those covered by the EU Directives on Ambient Air Quality

BRE has dedicated IAQ and Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) teams of experts who perform reactive and proactive IAQ/ventilation assessments in the field/ The teams also test air purification, HVAC and ventilation technologies and air quality sensors/monitors in our laboratories and environmental chambers.

Find out more about indoor environment testing at BRE.

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