You are what you breathe.

Chris Rush

Chris Rush, Associate, Air Quality Lead

Thoughts from the Routes to Clean Air conference.

What do you immediately think of when you consider your daily ‘intake’? Food? Calories? Those recommended pints of water?

Well the surprising thing is, outweighing all of this is the amount of air we intake every day. Compared to an average of just 1.5kg of food, and 2kg of water, we take approximately 12kg of air into our lungs every single day.

So air quality is absolutely something people should be considering as often as we think about what we’re eating and drinking – arguably even more so.

People can choose what they eat and drink, but the air we breathe in is almost completely out of our control.

Routes to Clean Air.

For the past two days, I’ve been at the annual IAQM Routes to Clean Air event, where people from across the industry highlight and discuss the impact that poor air quality is having on our health and wellbeing.

One of the main concerns is that there continues to remain a large gap between ‘emissions’ (the values we are told are accurate and some predictions are based on) and the ‘real world emissions’ (the emissions that are actually occurring), as evidenced in the diesel-gate scandal.

The real-world situation is complex, with actual emissions having much higher concentrations in certain situations.   

Stark figures.

So it’s clear the air we breathe both outside (and within the buildings we live and work in) continues – on the whole – to be poor. In fact, research has found that approximately 40,000 deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution in the UK each year. Globally, that number is 6.8 million.

When we’re considering the health and wellbeing of a building, it’s vital we acknowledge that, alongside other features that are being put in place to enable comfort and improve concentration, the environment cannot be healthy without understanding and controlling the air quality.

This is a serious matter that cannot be ignored or dealt with without collaborative and focused action.

The EU is making clear this need for urgency. This summer it launched legal proceedings against the governments of Britain and five other countries for repeatedly breaching legally binding air pollution rules.

The impact of this for us as designers is to ensure that we try to control air quality as much as we can on people’s behalf. While air pollution limits continue to not be met, it’s critical we protect indoor air from this poor outdoor air quality.

Find out more about what we’re doing to improve indoor air quality.