The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace more than ever before. While a significant proportion of UK office-based employees unexpectedly started working from home during many months of the national lockdown, offices across the country sat empty. As the world opens up again and offices are seeing more employees return to work, one of the main issues raised by workers coming back to the office is the issue of health and wellbeing.
People want to feel safe in the office and this is reinforced by the new updates to Part F (Ventilation) and Part L (Conservation of Energy) of the Building Regulations. For example, there will be a requirement for systems to have the ability to deliver 50 per cent higher ventilation rates for ‘months’. Offices will also have to monitor indoor air quality (IAQ) and reduce the ingress of pollutants. Similarly, Scotland’s Building Regulations also point to the importance of indoor air quality for mitigation of COVID-19, with recommendations to follow CIBSE guidance10.
There is no doubt the future of the office has been reshaped by the last two years of the pandemic, yet many believe office space will continue to provide an important venue for work, particularly for meetings with colleagues and clients. This poses a challenge for businesses looking to keep their most valuable asset – the workforce – productive, engaged yet ultimately feeling safe.
Given the hazards in outdoor air, it’s important to regard the workplace as a potential safe haven and an area that can achieve higher levels of indoor air quality with the right approach.
The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has published a number of technical bulletins with advice on indoor air quality, filtration and ventilation. In the workplace, building owners and managers can reduce sources of pollution, take actions to mitigate pollution and monitor the effectiveness of these steps: In areas with high levels of outdoor pollution, filtering the incoming air is vital. But this means that ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment must be powerful enough to accommodate this approach.
The law says employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air and helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission. Aerosol transmission can happen when someone breathes in small particles in the air (aerosols) after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.
Indoor air quality can vary, even on an hourly and daily basis. Continuous monitoring is recommended with regular recalibration and updating of policies. Regular cleaning of ductwork and filters should also be considered a key part of air quality improvement. In general, maintenance should be prioritised and indoor air quality made a key objective.
Benefits of ventilation, filtration and monitoring
At Temperature Control we work with a range of technologies through Mitsubishi Electric to support air quality. These technologies include mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems and filters.
MVHR systems can reduce energy consumption while maintaining the required ventilation to remove internally generated heat, moisture and pollutants. They are key to maintaining good indoor air quality and as such should be equipped with the highest appropriate quality of filtration and installed so that they can be easily maintained and kept clean. It is possible to carry out an outside air quality assessment near the building to determine the level of filtration required.
Mitsubishi Electric’s Lossnay MVHR range of units can recover up to 90% of heat energy, while delivering localised ventilation. This is particularly important for the modern office environment, where extraction of indoor pollutants, bacteria and viruses is critical for occupant wellbeing and reassurance. It is a technology that Mitsubishi Electric has offered for many years and has evolved to provide outstanding ventilation and filtration performance along with energy efficiency.
Filters can play a crucial role in removing many major pollutants from the air as it enters a building via ventilation and air conditioning systems. There are recognised standards in place for application of filters, as well as ratings for low energy filters. The global technical standard ISO 16890:2016 includes three efficiency classes for filters: ePM1 (best-performing); ePM2.5 (intermediate); and ePM10, the lowest efficiency (‘e’ stands for filtration efficiency). PM1 sized particles are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs and can enter the bloodstream. The use of ePM1 class filters is highly recommended in buildings that are close to roads and in city centres.
Most standard MVHR system filters are designed to protect the unit itself, rather than to improve indoor air quality. BESA recommends checking if your MVHR system can accept high-grade filters such as those mentioned above.
Finding the right contractor
Keeping your office safe for those working there, is not something to be taken lightly. If your HVAC systems need upgrading or replacing, working with one of Mitsubishi Electric’s Diamond Quality Partners, such as Temperature Control, is highly advised. Companies working within Mitsubishi Electric’s Partner Programme have been stringently trained to assure the highest levels of service, installation and quality.
Temperature Control’s customers receive up to 10 years warranty should anything go wrong, can trust in our skills as one of the best and most reliable installers and have the assurance that they will receive the best quality of aftercare, which is important for both the customer and the end user.
About Temperature Control
Starting life as E&O Walker Refrigeration in 1926, Temperature Control has been at the forefront of technological development within the industry ever since.
Working closely with leading air conditioning manufacturers across the world, the key to the company’s success is its constant focus on quality, combining its development and innovation with traditional values and customer service.
We have consolidated the offices down to two over the pandemic, so although we offer national coverage, this is from our Manchester and London offices. That gave its footprint across the entire country – and Temperature Control has grown to become one of the country’s largest specialist comfort cooling and heating contractors.