Indoor Air Quality: Learnings from 2020 and predictions for 2021


David Millward, Product Manager, and Jenna Chambers, Business Strategy Manager at Elta Group.

Undoubtedly, 2020 was a year unlike any other. For the Building Services industry specifically, we have faced much greater scrutiny on the design and safety of our public spaces, with particular emphasis on indoor air quality (IAQ).

Towards the latter end of last year, we attended the virtual annual conference for the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), which sought to bring the sector together to discover, discuss and debate the key issues that faced our industry in 2020 and how we move forward.

What did the conference involve?

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 was a hot-topic at the conference. The attainment of proper and efficient ventilation is not a new concept; however, the current situation has brought this to the attention of the general population and highlighted a real need to be proactive. There is a clear need to make people more aware of the air they breathe and the quality of it.

As part of the conference, we were lucky enough to sit in on a number of demonstrations by some of the industry’s leading professionals:

  1. An organised discussion on the health and wellbeing in buildings:

High-profile child health campaigner and World Health Organisation advocate, Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah, explained what building occupants expect from our industry, and the vital role we play in protecting the health of children and other vulnerable building occupants. This aligns with Elta Fans’ philosophy of ‘Enhancing Life Through Air’, and should be seen as a key objective for the building services industry.

  1. A session on preparing buildings for future pandemics:

Dr. Stephanie Taylor from Harvard Medical School presented studies on how indoor humidity impacts respiratory health, and how we can better prepare our built environment to reduce the threat of future pandemics. Strikingly, she dubbed building engineers as ‘the physicians of the future’, which highlights the health and safety-critical role of those involved in delivering ventilation solutions.

  1. Keynote speaker Q&A:

Dame Judith Hackitt gave an insightful Q&A session on the status of the Building Safety Bill and the needs of the industry to change. The ongoing, high-profile work of Dame Judith is bringing building health and safety to the front of the news agenda, which indicates a promising future for those of us with a genuine interest in improving the built environment.

How has the learnings from 2020 reinforced Elta Group’s strategy going forward?

Reflecting on last year, we are welcoming the change in regulations and legislation around IAQ. The Hackett report, for instance, is insisting on better specification of all components in the built environment from the outset. This means the usage of the space needs to be considered early on in the design process, which includes the positioning and specification of air movement systems.

“Making the invisible, visible” is a very prevalent phrase that Elta Group fully endorses, and we continue to promote going forward; the more aware the general population becomes regarding IAQ, the more the ventilation industry will be understood as playing a key role in the health of our buildings.

As a manufacturer specifically, it’s our job to support the industry in its plight for widespread education, as well as ensuring that the end-user’s needs and welfare is fulfilled at every turn of design, installation and RM&I.

What needs to happen in 2021?

It is clear that our “beyond compliance” message for system designers and installers must continue to be pushed. As we progress through 2021, we must move beyond simply achieving the minimum air change rates and air quality, to the pursuit of the most appropriate ventilation for the welfare and productivity of occupants and building/room usage.

At Elta Group, we pride ourselves on having the experience, specialist teams and a broad portfolio of fans, AHUs, and acoustics across a wide variety of building applications, from hospitals and schools, to agricultural operations and oil rigs. We are ventilation experts, and must work alongside other areas of the built environment to offer support in finding the solution to the complex IAQ issues highlighted at the 2019 BESA conference.