Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group minutes: 25 April 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group on 25 April 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Tim Sharpe, University of Strathclyde


  • Stephen Long, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Patrick Mackie, Local Authority Environmental Health
  • Christoph Ackermann, BDP
  • Dr Alice Street, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Gill Hubbard, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Maria Rossi, Public Health Scotland
  • Fiona Richardson, COSLA
  • Alan Johnston, BE-ST

Guest speakers

  • Officials from the Heat in Buildings Division, Scottish Government

Scottish Government attendees

  • Professor Linda Bauld, Chief Social Policy Advisor, Scottish Government
  • Dr Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards, Scottish Government
  • Graham Porteous, Head of Construction Procurement Policy Unit, Scottish Government
  • Population Health Resilience and Protection Officials, Directorate for Population Health


  • Professor Vittal Katikireddi, University of Glasgow
  • Neil Granger, Scottish Property Federation
  • Dr Chris Iddon, The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
  • Victoria Sanderson, Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
  • Professor Stephen Reicher, St Andrew’s University
  • Professor Cath Noakes, University of Leeds


  • Population Health Resilience and Protection Official

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed members to the seventh meeting of the COVID-19 Adaptations Expert Advisory Group. The Chair drew the group’s attention to Paper 1 concerning Policy Updates, and that in light of these updates the future of the group will be discussed at the next meeting. 

Agree minute of previous meeting

Members were invited to comment on or propose corrections to the minutes of meeting six. Christoph Ackerman highlighted a small error in the list of attendees. Secretariat agreed to correct this. No further comments were raised therefore the minute was agreed and will be published on the group webpage.

State of the pandemic update

Public Health Scotland (PHS) provided a brief update on the state of the pandemic, confirming that the prevalence of COVID-19 remains stable, and Scotland is in a recovery stage, although the pandemic is not officially over yet. The winter COVID-19 and Influenza vaccination programme is now concluded. Overall, testing has decreased across the UK, and will reduce further as Governments consider moving to an enhanced Business as Usual footing when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that children aged 6 months to 4 years who have specific medical conditions which place them at higher risk from COVID-19 should be offered a COVID-19 vaccine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) are planning to discuss the status of COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic at an upcoming meeting in light of changes across the world. 

The group discussed the meaning of the pandemic being declared ‘over’ and its relevance to those with Long Covid. 

Scottish Government policy update 

A Scottish Government (SG) official gave an update on the current SG policy position for the benefit of the group. 

Consideration of the triggers and mechanisms to maintain and improve ventilation in existing buildings, including retrofit strategy.

The Chair presented item five on the agenda and gave background and context. The driver for this agenda item is Recommendation 7 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG) that sought to ensure that good ventilation is part of building retrofit strategies. 

The Chair welcomed two SG officials from the Heat in Buildings Division as guest speakers.

The speakers delivered a presentation to the group summarising  the aims of the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes (HEEPS) Area based scheme, to award funding to local authorities to develop and deliver energy efficiency programmes in areas with high levels of fuel poverty. 

A high level summary of PAS 2035/2030 standards for domestic settings in relation to Area Based Schemes was provided. It was highlighted that ventilation is a key part of retrofit for existing, domestic buildings and that PAS 2035 calls for the completion of a ventilation assessment as a part of the retrofit process. The checklist included as a part of the standard was shared and it was noted that resources spent as a part of SG schemes can be used to make ventilation improvements. 

Officials added that there is a high-level commitment that any SG funded schemes for existing, domestic buildings will look to align with PAS 2035/2030, there is no similar scheme yet for non-domestic buildings.

The Chair commented that there is funding spent on improving thermal and energy efficiency and can at times result in poorer ventilation and associated problems. Therefore, the adoption of the ‘whole house approach’ in recent PAS standards is highly important. He noted that ventilation measures often carried a modest cost relative to cavity wall insulation and other heat and energy saving interventions. The Chair opened up the discussion to the wider group. 

The group discussed the presentations and background paper on the domestic and non-domestic standards. It was explained that there are regulations in the works for energy efficiency for both domestic and non-domestic new buildings and this will be open to public consultation over the summer.

Concern was raised by members that scammers and unscrupulous companies may offer services related to retrofit targets that could negatively impact the public. Officials acknowledged this risk, advising that this has been flagged by key stakeholders who had sought to adopt quality assurance measures to ensure that works are completed to a high standard. 

The group discussed the public appetite for improved ventilation in domestic settings and if there is any cross over between those living in fuel poverty and those most affected by COVID-19. It was identified that there are links between poor quality homes and poor health outcomes however these can be complicated and not always direct. 

The group discussed the issue of maintaining ventilation standards in existing, non-domestic buildings. The Chair noted that there was no formal mechanism by which existing non-domestic buildings would be monitored or assessed to ensure they were maintaining appropriate standards of ventilation. The group discussed whether this was an issue, there was acceptance that as poor ventilation can contribute to poor health outcomes there may be grounds for standards/regulations to address current risks and prepare for any future threats. The group discussed identifying synergies with other triggers and mechanisms for change for existing non-domestic buildings, considering existing opportunities to ensure ventilation is a consideration in retrofitting. The group discussed how such a requirement could be received and how they could be implemented.

An SG official summarised that the PAS 2038 guidelines for existing, non-domestic buildings have not yet officially been committed to by Scottish Government and therefore there may be an opportunity to ensure that ventilation is included in these guidelines. The Chair highlighted that this would then only catch those properties which are being retrofitted and as a result this would be a slow process. 

The Chair and members of the group again highlighted the need for further data on the performance of existing, non-domestic building stock as a key issue. Monitoring and assessment of ventilation performance in non-domestic buildings could be a critical step towards building the evidence and rationale for the development of policy triggers and mechanisms to prompt consideration of ventilation. 


The Chair thanked members for their time and valuable contributions. The next meeting will discuss the future of the group. The Chair asks that members put any suggestions/thoughts to the Secretariat in advance of the next meeting.  

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