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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Ventilation Short-Life Working Group minutes: 19 October 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Ventilation Short-Life Working Group on 19 October 2021.


Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Tim Sharpe Chair University of Strathclyde

  • Stephen Crawford Scottish Heads of Property Services

  • Neil Granger Scottish Property Federation

  • Chris Iddon Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers

  • Hugh Lightbody Business Gateway

  • Patrick Mackie Environmental Health and Trading Standards Covid-19 Group

  • Bruce Marshall Scottish Enterprise

  • Carol McRae Public Health Scotland

  • Tracy McTaggart Health and Safety Executive

  • Cath Noakes University of Leeds (for latter part of meeting)

  • Fiona Richardson Convention of Scottish Local Authorities

  • Graham Robertson Health and Safety Coordinating Group

  • Euan Ryan Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

  • Karen Stevenson Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

  • Ian Storrar NHS Health Facilities Scotland, Chair of Healthcare Ventilation working group

  • Michael Swainson BRE Group

Scottish Government attendees

  • Morag Angus Chief Surveyor

  • Stephen Garvin Deputy Director Building Standards

  • David McPhee Deputy Director Covid Business Resilience and Support (CoBRaS)

Apologies

  • Stephen Long Scottish Futures Trust
  • Marion McCormack Deputy Director Covid Ready Society

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed all attendees to the third meeting of the Scottish Government’s Covid Ventilation Short Life Working Group. Apologies were noted as above.

Minutes of the previous meeting and review of actions

Paper CV3-1

  • draft minutes of the meeting of 21 September 2021 had been previously circulated, the group confirmed the minutes as accurate

The current status of the actions was reported in the minutes, all completed except for:

  • terms of reference - final minor amendments still to be completed
  • members to return completed Conflict of Interest forms - two remaining outstanding

Taking forward approved recommendations

Paper CV3-2

  • update on the approved recommendations work had been previously circulated. Scottish Government officials provided further detail, some group members raised queries and fed back further comments in relation to the work

Funding for adaptations to enhance ventilation

Some clarity on the use of terms such as ‘close contact’ and ‘essential service’ was suggested. Several members raised concerns with whether there would be support in terms of some form of survey and ensuring any measures taken did not contravene any current Regulations (such as building, planning, fire safety), although it was acknowledged that it would not be a good use of the funds if they were mainly used up on professional fees for assessing requirements rather than actually making the adjustments. It was noted that the self-assessment tool is being designed to help with the identification of need.

Some more detailed aspects are still being worked on, and will be shared with the group for comment in due course. The chair summarised some of the recent discussions he has had with officials in relation to the timings and scale of the works. With regards to air cleaners/purifiers, it was requested that tight definitions are included as to what would be suitable for funding, such as based on recent SAGE information. It was suggested that in line with SAGE maybe only air cleaners should be included and not air purifiers.

Action

  • Scottish Government officials to amend the paper in light of the discussions and recirculate

SLWG future work programme

It was discussed that aspects with regards to current Regulations and compliance should be the next item to be looked at by the group at future meeting/s.

At 10:30am, Further/Higher Education and Community Learning and Development representatives joined the meeting (a list of attendees is included below).

10:30am to 11:30am FE/HE/CLD ventilation discussion

Ventilation introduction from SLWG

The Chair welcomed the Further Education (FE), Higher Education (HE) and Community Learning and Development (CLD) representatives and provided an introductory presentation on Ventilation. This included systems for achieving ventilation, comfort aspects, performance gaps, use of CO2 monitors. It was highlighted that the focus should be on targeting areas of poor ventilation, rather than improving already good ventilation. CO2 monitors are an indicator, not a measure. Settings would need to have provision in place to address any issues, and identify who would be responsible for this.

University/college situation

Universities representatives provided a summary on behalf of FE/HE institutions, highlighting the work that has been done on ventilation. Universities, in particular, are more like small towns in relation to the complexity of different types of settings they have. They employ a range of expert professional staff to look after these buildings and settings, who know the sites very well. Institutions have already gone beyond the Scottish Government (SG) guidance, with more restrictions still in place than in wider society, and there have not been many outbreaks recently. Some concern was expressed in relation to the ventilation levels which have been requested in some Trade Union documents. The institutions do not support the indiscriminate or mandatory use of CO2 monitors in all FE/HE spaces.

Trade unions

Trade Union representatives indicated that they would like clearer and more specific guidance on ventilation from SG. Based on other information that they have accessed, they have been asking for an air flow rate of 12 to17 litres per second, and below 800 parts per million CO2 levels. They have seen a lot of good practice in the sector, but would like to see more best practice. Aim would be to get to a point where clean air is seen in the same way as clean water, and institutions should be considering the longer term health benefits of any capital spend in relation to this. They would like to replicate the schools practice and guidance on CO2 monitoring, although recognise there are caveats with that, they are the best we have currently. Ventilation is part of a whole package of mitigations, which should continue to be considered as higher numbers are brought back to campuses.

Community Learning and Development (CLD)

CLD Standards Council spoke on behalf of CLD organisations across Scotland. CLD is the educational aspect which sits between FE and HE. Thousands of learners across Scotland use their services, but they use a variety of different sites that are not used for CLD alone. They see a lot of inconsistency across the sites and would advocate for a common approach, for learners and practitioners. However, they would have some concerns about any large scale or mandatory use of CO2 monitors.

Discussion

The Chair re-emphasised that the focus should be on areas that are badly ventilated, and 12 to 17 l/p/s is a very high ventilation rate. CIBSE referred to HSE and SAGE rates, and advised that CO2 monitors can be helpful to identify the poorer ventilated spaces. It was asked what measures have been taken with regards to communicating that mechanical ventilation systems have been checked? Simple reassurance measures could be taken.

SCDC noted that they had created their own resource, and asked for input on, the technical parts of their guidance, liability, contribution to training?

Trade union representatives asked if some sort of ready-reckoner could be produced on the maximum capacity of a room based on the air quality rather than size of the space? How can it be enforced that windows are kept open, etc. Trade union representatives welcomed any revised guidance to help staff know that there is effective ventilation in that area, and provide reassurance that employers are taking all the steps they can. Ventilation actions are not consistent across the sector, and presumably any reading in an empty room before term would be different when the room is in use, so there is a need for continuous remedial monitoring. EIS echoed the view that the schools guidance should be replicated for FE/HE. Be wary that just because there has not been many outbreaks means its working ok, should be thinking about going forwards.

It was noted that ventilation can be a complex issue, it is not always possible to give a simple answer. Members of the group commented that they would like to see consideration of the health of buildings being given more importance. Will the balance between thermal comfort and ventilation be considered? It was pointed out that if it is partly a communications issue, then this can be easily fixed without the need for CO2 monitors or disruptive building works. It was observed that universities should not be considered in the same way as colleges / CLD, as universities have access to a much bigger expert estates staff.

Summary/recommendations from SLWG

The Chair advised that he does not think that the blanket use of CO2 monitors is being suggested. However, there is value in use of CO2 monitoring as a diagnostic tool in spaces of concern, as a means of raising awareness of ventilation issues, and a means to balance ventilation and thermal comfort, perhaps especially for CLD. Feedback from the use of them in schools has found that most spaces are not that bad, has allowed them to target those that are, and improvements have been made from simple changes. As FE/HE are still operating with a social distance mode, it would help to identify spaces that may be poorly ventilated with full occupancy

He encouraged meeting attendees to send in any further thoughts by email. If institutions have any examples of good operational or communications practices, it would be useful to share these. The SLWG will reflect on this useful discussion and make some recommendations on how to focus attention.

Action

  • attendees to send in any further thoughts by email
  • SLWG to provide recommendations with regards to ventilation in FE/HE/CLD
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