Researchers call for governments to mandate indoor air quality monitoring

In a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers from The University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University and Beijing University of Technology are calling on governments to consider enforcing real-time indoor air quality monitoring at least all public buildings. 

Given that scientists accept that nearly all transmission occurs indoors, in poorly ventilated spaces and that more than 6.5 million people have been reported to die globally due to the infection, there is an urgent need to improve ventilation in buildings worldwide.

grayscale photo of round metal frame

The two key components of building energy performance are thermal performance and ventilation performance. We can monitor thermal conditions with a thermometer, but although we can detect odours, we cannot sense or predict a building’s ventilation performance. So humans are not capable of detecting air pollutants, such as infection aerosols. This inability to detect most air pollutants contributes to the indoor air crisis, the researchers note.

The researchers suggest that without governments establishing mandatory requirements for building ventilation performance, building owners will unlikely choose to monitor their buildings’ ventilation performance. The researchers also note that monthly or annual data on building ventilation rates is not sufficient. Real-time hourly ventilation rates are needed to determine the ventilation performance of buildings. Taking into account the world’s current population of seven billion people, the researchers suggest there are likely more than one billion homes globally. Along with that number, there are hundreds of millions of other indoor spaces, such as office buildings and movie theaters. It is an unrealistic goal at present to attempt to conduct real-time hourly monitoring for all those indoor spaces.

Bringing the changes needed to improve building ventilation is highly challenging. If adequate ventilation data existed then a predictive tool could be used, at low cost, for many buildings. The Internet of Things technologies enable the collection of good quality real-time date in indoor spaces. Integrating predictive tools with Internet of Things, big data, and machine learning approaches would give scientists a way to assess the ventilation performance of buildings.  “

Yuguo Li from the University of Hong Kong said: ‘We remain optimistic that future innovation will result in advances in economic monitoring and predictive tools for determining ventilation performance in the billions of indoor spaces worldwide. There is a hope that we will be better prepared in future than we are now for the next airborne microbial pandemic’


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1 year ago

Meanwhile here in the UK there are very many county towns, university campuses, and rural business parks without any government air quality monitoring sites at all. None.The daily forecasts and current reports we have acces to via apps and laptops are all computer generated and not from measured realtime data. If you don’t believe that, go to the Defra webpages and see where their monitoring sites actually are (not that many in some areas either). The maps we see are extrapolations only which is a shame as the technology does now exist for all our towns & local councils to do their own air quality monitoring in situ, if they so wish. And this is about outside air before we even think about inside. Why don’t we have a local air quality display board outside (and inside?) every school and NHS clinic? Knowing about the general AQ on any given day, estimated purely from measurements taken many miles from where I live and work is rather useless to me. Like the webpage where you put in your post code. Reliable?

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