With the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently changing its stance and suggesting “the possibility of aerosol transmission” of COVID-19 in indoor crowded spaces, such as fitness classes, ventilation has further risen up the agenda as an essential means to mitigate transmission of the virus inside.
The Government’s recent guidance ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities’ reflects this with an entire section dedicated to ventilation stating clearly that: “Ventilation is an important part of mitigating against the transmission of COVID-19.”
Following a further easing of lockdown restrictions, gyms and sports facilities are set to open on 25 July. However, before reopening businesses need to seriously evaluate their ventilation to ensure it works effectively and does not under-ventilate which is critical to reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19.
Within the ventilation section of the new gym guidance ‘Air extraction and ventilation measures’ it states that ventilation into the building should be optimised ensuring a fresh air supply is provided to all areas of a facility and increased wherever possible. With higher intensity exercise increasing the risk of transmission of the virus it is advised to give particular attention to these areas. The guidance gives clear advice on how to optimise ventilation by implementing specific measures regarding occupancy and airflow: “The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100ft2 per person. For this figure, the area is the net useable indoor facility space available to members to use, including changing rooms, toilet and wash facilities. Reducing capacity in this way whilst sustaining ventilation flows, will increase the typical current 10l/s/p flow rate of ventilation to at least 20l/s/p, as fewer people are being served by the ventilation system.”
In addition, the guidelines advise ventilation systems should also provide 100% fresh air with no recirculation of air from one space to another. Other considerations include fans running at full speed to maximise airflow; ventilation running 24/7; regular filter changes to help ensure optimum airflow; and CO2 sensors to be used if air changes are unknown as a surrogate indicator to switch on additional mechanical ventilation or open windows. The document then directs readers to the CIBSE ventilation guidance for further information.
“Ventilation has repeatedly been cited in Government statements and guidance as a way to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 indoors. The recent WHO guidance has added further weight to a raft of academic papers suggesting aerosol transmission of the virus. With all this global scientific evidence the Government is now clearly advocating ventilation in the fight against COVID-19. At Vent-Axia we are here to provide ventilation solutions and advice to gyms and leisure facilities. With the lockdown set to ease on the 25 July and gyms reopening, businesses need to ensure their premises are as safe as possible for staff and customers. Now is the time to check ventilation to ensure there is enough airflow to dilute the virus in the air andimprove indoor air quality. Ventilating for longer and opting for ventilation with higher airflow volumes will also help reduce the risk. Following the Government’s guidance on density of occupation and the necessary airflow is critical,” said David Cook, technical product manager at Vent-Axia.
CIBSE’s document ‘CIBSE COVID-19 Ventilation Guidance’gives further detailed advice for building managers/operators to minimise the risks of airborne transmission of COVID-19. Here the overarching advice is to increase the air supply and exhaust ventilation, supplying as much outside air as is reasonably possible to dilute and remove the virus as much as possible. More detailed advice includes: extending the operation times of supply and extract mechanical ventilation systems; start ventilation at nominal speed at least two hours before the building usage time and switch to lower speed two hours after the building usage time; in demand-controlled ventilation systems lowering the CO2setpoint to 400ppm to maintain operation; and to keep ventilation on 24/7 with lower ventilation rates when people are absent. CIBSE also directs readers to refer to manufacturer’s guidance for help.
Vent-Axia is committed to improving indoor air quality and public health and has helped in the national response against COVID-19. The company has already supplied ventilation to a wide-range of essential projects, such as the Nightingale Hospital in London, and now is available to support gyms and sports facilities as they prepare to reopen. There are a number of ventilation options for businesses keen to improve their ventilation and indoor air quality. The company has a vast amount of experience supplying ventilation to gyms and sports facilities with its T-Series extract fan particularly popular, ACM inline fans, and its Sentinel Totus² Demand Energy Recovery Ventilation system (D-ERV).