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COVID-19 | HOMEWORKING IAQ IS HOME WORKING? Millions of people now work from home because of Covid-19 restrictions, but are they working in a healthy environment? Researchers have assessed the impact on indoor air quality in eight homes. Anastasia Mylona reports Indoor air quality and window operation T he global health emergency caused by the Covid-19 outbreak is leaving a trail of profound social, economic, and environmental effects that will be felt for years. Governments around the world adopted unprecedented measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including social distancing, stopping non-essential productive and social activities, and limiting the movement of people and goods. Stay-at-home mandates have forced companies to embrace remote working, and this shift is likely to last even when the pandemic is over. Since the implementation of lockdown measures, many people are spending almost all of their time at home. Consequently, the quality of the indoor built environment is more important than ever for the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants. In this context, Dr Farhang Tahmasebi and Professor Jian Kang, with their teams, have carried out CIBSE-funded research projects addressing post-pandemic indoor air quality and acoustics (see panel below). INDOOR SOUNDSCAPES Another team at UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering Prof Kang, Dr Francesco Aletta and Dr Tin Oberman together with Prof Rossano Albatici, Simone Torresin (University of Trento) and Dr Francesco Babich (Eurac Research), are researching acoustic comfort as one of the IEQ domains, with a project entitled Home as a place of rest and work: the ideal indoor soundscape during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It aims to: get insights into how the acoustic environment and building features affect or support activities performed at home; inform peoples expectations of their ideal indoor soundscape; and identify cross-cultural differences between countries. A team of researchers at University College London (UCL) Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering conducted a study funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Impact Acceleration Account and CIBSE to investigate if indoor air quality (IAQ) in residential buildings has deteriorated during the Covid-19 lockdown. The project took advantage of remote access to monitoring devices in eight occupied flats that had been part of an investigation before the coronavirus outbreak. This meant the team could assess the trajectory of IAQ and windowoperation patterns by occupants before and after Covid-19. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, in July 2019, the researchers conducted semistructured interviews to establish a baseline for the occupants overall satisfaction with their dwellings, their general health and wellbeing, and sleep quality. The questions were asked again during the lockdown, to determine if there were any observable effects on participants behaviour, wellbeing and satisfaction with their dwellings. Additionally, the study used a one-year long, five-minute resolution monitored dataset to reveal the impact of the lockdown on IAQ and patterns of opening and closing windows by occupants. This included indoor and outdoor air temperature, relative humidity, CO2, PM10 and PM2.5, along with occupancy state as detected by motion sensors and operation of windows captured by contact sensors. The data analysis examined the impact of the lockdown at two scales: the first fortnight of lockdown has been compared with the fortnight before, to quantify the immediate impact of lockdown. Next, to get a broader understanding of the overall effect, a threemonth period, mid-lockdown, has been compared with a three-month period in the previous year with similar weather conditions. From seven completed questionnaires during the lockdown, all but one (a healthcare worker) reported an increase in the amount of time spent at home. Participants were typically at home on evenings and weekends before the 24 December 2020 www.cibsejournal.com CIBSE Dec20 pp24-25 Homeworking IAQ.indd 24 20/11/2020 17:36