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The BREEAM team is delighted to have made the shortlist for this year’s National Air Quality Awards for ‘Commercial Sector Air Quality Initiative of the Year’. This recognises the recent work the team has carried out to update the air quality related requirements in the upcoming BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 scheme.

 

Since the first BREEAM scheme was launched in 1990, the assessment of air quality issues has been an integral part of all BREEAM schemes. While the early schemes’ coverage was largely focused on indoor air quality issues such as fresh air rates for ventilation, the intervening years have seen an expansion in the schemes’ coverage of other air quality related issues. The current BREEAM schemes’ coverage now includes and rewards projects that:

  • Monitor and manage construction site related transport movements to help minimise emissions from transport.
  • Produce an indoor air quality plan that details actions to be taken to minimise indoor air pollution during design, construction and occupation of the building.
  • Minimise the concentration and recirculation of pollutants in indoor air through provision of fresh air in accordance with best practice ventilation standards, locating air intakes away from sources of pollution, providing filtration in HVAC systems, and providing sensors to monitor indoor air quality during operation of the building.
  • Specify construction products that have low VOC emissions and perform post-construction indoor air quality monitoring for formaldehyde and TVOCs.
  • Use on-site combustion appliances with low NOx emissions to minimise impacts to local air quality.
  • Are located in close proximity to public transport networks, local services and amenities, in order to help reduce transport-related pollution and congestion.
  • Provide measures that encourage building users to travel using low carbon modes of transport, such as cyclist facilities, electric vehicle recharging points and car share facilities.

In the last year, the BREEAM team has been updating the BREEAM UK New Construction 2014 scheme, so a new version can be launched in early 2018. The draft BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 scheme has recently been subject to public consultation. The 2018 scheme includes a number of proposals to update the air quality related requirements to encourage actions that lead to improvements in both outdoor and indoor air quality. Some of the significant changes proposed are:

  • Following a comprehensive review of international standards for the testing and assessment of VOC emissions from construction products, the ‘Hea 02 Indoor air quality’ assessment issue criteria for ‘emissions from building products’ have been significantly updated to reflect current international best practice. The previous criteria generally only covered formaldehyde emissions and required testing to European (EN) standards. The new criteria cover a wider range of products and test methods, the formaldehyde emission limits have been tightened and emission limits for carcinogenic VOCs and TVOCs have been introduced.
  • The scope of the previous ‘Pol 02 NOx emissions’ assessment issue (now renamed to ‘Pol 02 Local air quality’), which focused mainly on NOx emissions from gas boilers, has been expanded to include other fuel sources and combustion emissions. Emission limits have been updated for NOx and introduced for particulate matter and VOC, based on those stipulated in the EU Ecodesign Directives for combustion appliances. More stringent emission limits for sites within Air Quality Management Areas have also been introduced.
  • Historically the BREEAM transport related issues have favoured site locations in urban or metropolitan areas (i.e. those with good public transport networks, in close proximity to a wide range of local services, etc.). A restructure of the transport issues is proposed that will reward projects that maximise opportunities available to the site/project to encourage access to sustainable means of transport for building users and support reductions in transport-related energy use, pollution and congestion over the life of the building. The starting point would be an initial transport assessment in order to determine the ‘baseline’ for the project. Projects would be rewarded for the measures that are implemented to improve upon the identified baseline.

By encouraging continuous performance improvement and innovation by setting and assessing against scientifically rigorous requirements that go beyond current regulations and practice, the air quality related proposals for the BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 scheme will help those who own, commission, deliver, manage and use buildings to achieve their air quality and sustainability aspirations.

Chris Ward
About the Author
Dr Chris Ward (BREEAM Principal Consultant) is responsible for ensuring that BREEAM is underpinned by the most up-to-date and robust science and evidence and for managing BREEAM’s research strategy and programme. Since joining BRE in 2011, Chris has project managed and worked on a wide range of research and development projects covering topics including savings and payback of sustainable buildings, environmental weightings, the gap between actual and predicted performance of buildings, emissions from building products, and sustainable remediation of contaminated land. Chris is a Chartered Chemist, Chartered Scientist and Chartered Environmentalist and has 9 years’ previous experience of working in both environmental consultancy and regulatory roles covering issues including air quality, contaminated land, water quality and environmental permitting of industrial processes.

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