The question of air quality in the UK
When talking about air quality most people think about outdoor pollution and the smoggy grey skies that hover over industrial areas. But as the cold winter months approach and the second wave of covid starts to take hold in the UK, people are increasingly concerned about indoor air quality. This concern is not unfounded. The WHO has highlighted that poorly ventilated indoor spaces may increase the risk of virus transmissions. As people spend time inside shopping centres, schools and office buildings, there is a real concern that existing ventilation is not adequate.
In a way it’s a wake-up call for the construction industry which is a major contributor to carbon emissions. Test results showing poor indoor air quality in most existing buildings, hints at poor design and engineering. The construction industry has an opportunity to start to implement positive change as it embarks on new projects and take proactive steps to improve air quality through engineering and design.
Will HS2 lead the way with improving air quality?
It’s not co-incidental that the concerns have been raised in light of Clean Air Day which was on 08 October. Many industry players weighed in on the importance of mitigating further pollution and making design changes that could improve indoor air quality for buildings.
HS2 chose Clean Air Day to announce an ambitious plan to improve air quality highlighting at least ten ways it was going to go about it. This included solar powered cabins and sourcing renewable energy to power construction sites. HS2 already made headlines when committing to use zero emission electric construction machinery in a bid to reduce carbon emissions. Project sites will also have strict limits on dust pollution and there is a strong commitment to continually monitor air quality with a view to raising the bar on industry best practice.
As one of the UK’s largest and most prominent infrastructure construction projects HS2 has the ability to impact the industry and demonstrate how air quality doesn’t have to be at odds with development. In fact, if it achieves its goals, it can create an industry blueprint for low carbon construction. The industry has an important role to play in helping the UK meet its ambitious low carbon targets. The focus on improving air quality could be just the catalyst needed to drive innovation and develop a more efficient and environmentally friendly way of operating.