In The Air Tonight
6th November 2023
Phil Collins once said “I can feel it in the air tonight” – but what was he feeling? Well, it was probably a cocktail of body odour, mould, condensation, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, radon and a variety of other Volatile Organic Compounds that can literally choke us to death.
Proper ventilation is essential to maintain healthy indoor air quality, reduce pollutants, and ensure the well-being of occupants. The increased frequency of people working from home following Covid has shown that ventilation is often inadequate in buildings, and the tragic death of Awaab Ishak showed that mould created by poor ventilation can ultimately be fatal.
What’s Going Wrong?
Since 2010, Building Regulations 39, 42 and 44 have required that ventilation systems are commissioned, and guidance is given to owners about how to operate the systems. Many Building Inspectors, however, have failed to enforce these requirements.
The 2019 report “Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in New Homes” identified that just 2 of the 55 homes visited met the Building Regulations guidance. Just 9 of the homes met the minimum extract fan flow rates, and less than half of the homes met the minimum trickle ventilator areas, with homes as much as 60% below the recommended area.
The Chief Medical Officer said: “Whilst buildings are subject to Building Regulations, these are often poorly applied. There is good evidence that many buildings constructed to recent building standards fail to meet the minimum requirements for ventilation.”
What Are The Rules?
In 2021, Approved Document F was updated, and the guidance revised to make clear that information was now required for work on existing dwellings as well as new dwellings, as shown below:
What Do I Need To Provide?
The list of information in paragraphs 4.13 to 4.17 is as follows:
4.13 Sufficient information about the ventilation system and its maintenance requirements must be given to the building owner to allow the system to be operated effectively. This should include both design flow rates and maintenance requirements. The information should be provided in a clear manner, for a non-technical audience.
4.14 A copy of the completed commissioning sheet should be given to the owner of the dwelling.
4.15 The operation and maintenance information should contain specific instructions for the end user on how and when to use the ventilation system, including information on the intended uses for the available fan settings. Information should also be provided to suggest when, and how, the system components should be cleaned and maintained.
4.16 The following information should be provided where relevant:
a. Manufacturer’s contact details.
b. That background ventilators allow fresh air into the home and should be left open.
c. The location of automatic controls and how to set them.
d. The location of manual controls for the on/off and high-rate settings for a mechanical
ventilation system and how to use them.
e. How cleaning and maintenance of the system and its components should be carried out. This
includes the location and specification of filters and how to assess when to replace filters.
f. How to access ducts for cleaning, how to undertake cleaning of plant and ducts and the intervals at which cleaning should be undertaken.
g. The location of sensors and how to recalibrate them.
h. Design flow rates.
4.17 The operation and maintenance information should also contain relevant manufacturers’ literature, including the following, where relevant:
a. Component specifications.
b. Installation guidance.
c. Operating instructions.
d. Maintenance schedules.
f. Registration card.
g. Spare parts lists.
h. Instructions for obtaining spare parts.
Indoor air quality is important to ensure that the air we breathe isn’t slowly killing us, and Building Regulations require that ventilation is correctly designed, installed, and commissioned.
Our minimum expectation at completion is therefore that the commissioning information sheet and the homeowner user guide are issued to ourselves and the homeowner. We have provided links below to enable you to download the relevant documents you need.
Building Regulations are seen as a set of rules to be followed, which, yes, essentially, that is exactly what they are, but building regulations don’t need to constrict architects.
The Building Safety Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, marking a monumental shift in the regulatory landscape for building safety in the UK.