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Global indoor air quality benchmark launches

This excerpt is taken from Prime Resi – Journal of Luxury Property

Ekkist founder Olga Turner Baker has launched a new venture, teaming up with Metrikus to create AirRated, which provides property developers and owners with a “global benchmark for Indoor Air Quality”.

A new “global benchmark for Indoor Air Quality” has launched today, offering official certification for new-build homes as well as public sector and office buildings. AirRated is the brainchild of well-building guru Olga Baker Turner, who has teamed up with environmental tech agency Metrikus to help property developers and owners better understand, improve and communicate air quality information with occupants.

Indoor air quality can suffer as buildings become more air-tight to help energy-efficiency, while some construction materials can introduce potentially harmful chemicals. “Materials used to construct and decorate buildings are long-term sources of ‘VOCs’ (air-borne chemical compounds) and formaldehyde,” warned the Royal College of Physicians earlier this year. Many furnishings are treated with flame retardant chemicals, while fires, candles, cooking and some cleaning
products release small particles, gases, and/or VOCs. Activities such as cooking, showering or drying clothes indoors cause moisture and can lead to damp or mould.

The AirRated team estimates that British people spend around 90% of their time indoors, and cites research from the Global Alliance on Health & Pollution that warns that some five million premature deaths are caused by breathing poor air; a recent British study by the Royal College of Paediatricians & Child Health indicated that children in particular are being exposed to harmful levels of pollutants as a result.

“Air quality is arguably the single greatest determinant of our overall health and well-being in buildings,” declares Baker Turner.

Quintain’s The Landsby build-to-rent scheme in London has already been AirRated (achieving “Gold” standard), as have commercial buildings including The Met Office HQ in Exeter (Silver standard), and The Office Group’s Summit House in Holborn (Certified standard).

Chartered Surveyor Baker Turner co-founded Ekkist at the start of 2018, after a career with Savills and CBRE. Ekkist quickly established itself in sustainability and design circles thanks to a ground-breaking collaboration with RIBA Awards-winning architects Studio McLeod – which resulted in the creation of “Ori House”, with blueprints for a home designed specifically to enhance occupant health and well-being. She was named as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” innovators last year, and a “Rising Star” by Estates Gazette in 2016.

How air quality is rated

The AirRated certification is based on peer-reviewed academic research and is aligned to global building standards and health guidelines. An “AirScore” is generated following a monitoring period of three weeks and is valid for a period of 12 months. Information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is collected by sensors within the building over three weeks, and compared with local outdoor conditions.

The AirScore is comprised of five fundamental parameters: PM2.5, CO2, TVOCs, Temperature and Humidity. The three most impactful of which (PM2.5, CO2 and TVOCs) must meet a minimum threshold requirement for 95% of survey hours in order to pass. The ratings are tiered, ranging from “AirScore Certified”, “Silver”, “Gold” up to the highest level, “Platinum”.

Following the certification, AirRated offers advice to clients on strategies for improving their indoor environments and on communicating this to prospective, buyers, tenants or building occupants. AirRated charges a base fee of £7,500 for certification, plus £175 per residential unit or £0.05p per square foot for office space.

Olga Baker Turner, CEO of AirRated: “Our aim at AirRated is to create an
internationally accepted industry standard for classifying Indoor Air Quality
across all use classes in the built environment.

“At AirRated, we support our clients in promoting healthy environments by
raising awareness of Indoor Air Quality and providing bespoke strategies for
improvement. Air quality is arguably the single greatest determinant of our
overall health and well-being in buildings, and it is paramount that we begin to
map and quantify this in order to develop better strategies for improving Indoor Air Quality and creating better living, working and leisure environments.”

Francesca Brady, Head of Environmental Research at AirRated: “Indoor Air
Quality can affect so many elements of our lives from sleep and allergies to
productivity at work and overall health. For example, the pollutant PM2.5 is so
small that it can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause serious implications for the body, the longer you are exposed to high concentrations the worse it can be.

It’s now time for property developers and management companies to take action and responsibility for the air that their residents and occupiers are breathing and take necessary steps to ensure it’s the best it can be for the health of future generations.

Further Reading
Interview: Ekkist’s Olga Turner on building for wellness & the growth of biophilic design April 2018
Developing for the Future: On the healthy benefits of green building By Olga Turner (April 2019)