Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A coalition of nine industry peak bodies has called for the development of credible, government-endorsed, public information regarding the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the importance of indoor air quality.

A letter addressed to federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, has been signed by the Association of Consulting Architects; the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH); the Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors Association of Australia (AMCA Australia); the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE Australia & New Zealand); the Facilities Management Association of Australia (FMA); the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA); the Indoor Air Quality Association Australia (IAQAA); Master Plumbers; and Standards Australia.

The organisations, which participated in the COVID and Ventilation Roundtable in early September, have expressed the collective view that more substantial guidance on airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the importance of indoor air quality – endorsed by both government and industry – is vital for Australians to return to workplaces and other buildings confidently, safely, and sustainably.

AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH, says the organisations gathered together due to the importance and urgency of the issue.

“Ventilation is front-page news,” Gleeson says. “People are concerned about whether they can safely return to schools, offices, gyms, public events and other spaces. It’s very positive that air quality has become a topic of public conversation, but this increased awareness must be supported by solid advice. Australians need credible and practical guidance that can be easily understood by different audiences.”

Gleeson also says that any advice must establish realistic expectations about what can be achieved. The letter notes that although ventilation can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is only one part of an overall strategy that also includes technical, socio-behavioural, and organisational measures. Also, the measures used will be different for existing buildings and new builds, and for different settings.

As well as highlighting the issue’s importance, the group has offered to work with the government to develop advice around ventilation and COVID-19.

“Our industry has experts with decades of experience in ventilation and indoor air quality,” says Gleeson. “Since the start of the pandemic, AIRAH and other organisations have been creating and sharing resources about airborne transmission of COVID-19 and HVAC systems. 

“We have vital technical expertise and connections within the built environment, and we are eager to work with the government to develop the best possible guidance for all Australians.”