Developing a good indoor air quality plan that follows the BREEAM environmental assessment and rating system can help businesses manage their construction and refurbishment planning processes to ensure they create better, healthier workspaces for their staff and others through the careful selection and use of suitable building materials, appropriate heating and ventilation, and other equipment.
What makes a good indoor air quality plan?
The idea behind a BREEAM indoor air quality plan (IAQP) is to recognise the need for a healthy environment in the workplace. Businesses can do this by setting out their air quality policies covering everything from installing mechanical ventilation and air conditioning, to which carpets and paint finishes they wish to use in their offices.
Poor air quality in the workplace
Poor indoor air quality in the workplace has been linked to increased staff sickness, absenteeism and reduced productivity. The primary aim of an air quality plan is to pinpoint any sources of pollution and minimise them, with the end result of raising the quality of the air which workers are breathing in.
You might be surprised to learn that virtually all workspaces have pollutants present in the air. These pollutants can come from outside, the fabric of the building itself, or from materials used in say a refurbishment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are perhaps one of the best-known indoor pollutants, along with formaldehyde. When testing for VOCs and formaldehyde should always be carried out inaccordance with BREEAM Hea02 as at high levels, both of these types of chemicals are thought to cause cancer.
What should an indoor air quality plan include?
A BREEAM indoor air quality plan, or IAQP, should be written specifically with your operation in mind. A well prepared IAQP will include information about:
You should use your IAQP when planning the construction or refurbishment of any premises, and especially when sourcing building and furnishing materials. This process will help businesses focus on the provision of healthy workspaces by reducing air pollution levels, which in turn has a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of anyone living or working in those spaces.
Re-modelling and building refurbishment
If the building being occupied has already been constructed, then you should use your air quality plan to look at the ventilation strategy for the living or workspaces. Build high-quality, efficient ventilation that meets with the latest best practices into the design at the earliest stages. You should also look to brief architects, designers and engineers on the areas covered in the IAQP so that they can factor it in to their designs.
Developing a BREEAM indoor air quality plan for your business
A BREEAM indoor air quality plan is a technical document and should be prepared by a professional, specialist in the development of healthy indoor workspaces. Specialist external consultants could be used such as WTS, or you could look for a mechanical engineering company, firm of architects or sustainability experts with the correct experience for the job.
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
BREEAM – the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method was introduced in 1990 and is now considered to be the world industry standard for drawing up these sorts of air quality plans.
A comprehensive BREEAM assessment examines building design, its construction and future operation and considers a wide range of factors including energy efficiency, water and air quality, health and safety issues, waste management, pollution and other relevant factors.
Ensure that your chosen expert knows that you expect the IAQP to cover the 5 main headings outlined in the BREEAM criteria. Typically an indoor air quality expert should take around a day to produce your IAQP unless the building or construction project is particularily complex. The plan should be in place at the early stages of the design process, construction or refurbishment, as it often has to be submitted as evidence to the Local Authority Building Control or the Planning office. The lead designers or architect also needs to have a copy of the IAQP, as it will detail the approved standards and finishes in the building.
Top tips to ensure healthy workplace environments
- Ensure you give someone with the appropriate skills the specific responsibility for preparing your indoor air quality plan.
- Make sure that the building contractor in charge of the building or refurbishment project provides detailed product specifications and certificates during the purchasing phase of the project.
- Consider going beyond the BREEAM guidelines by asking contractors to provide a copy of the air quality guide to all occupiers of the building.
Specialist indoor air quality investigations and testing solutions
WTS offer a comprehensive range of indoor air quality testing and workplace investigation solutions to support business owners, property managers, health and safety professionals, and facilities management specialists. Our experts can provide advice and support to help you identify the most appropriate strategies for the identification and management of pollutants affecting indoor workplace environments.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained technicians, in-field specialists and consultants we can offer professional, cost effective BREEAM indoor air quality planning solutions throughout the UK and internationally.
Contact us today to learn how our solutions can help create better workplace environments, improve the health and wellbeing of staff, reduce sickness and absenteeism, and increase productivity.
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