The air that we breathe has been taken for granted for so many decades — but not any more.
In the 1950s and 1960s, with frequent smogs, the Government introduced The Clean Air Act 1956, to deal with the problem. The act was updated again in 1968 and 1993. It was only then that we started to take more notice about the environment and the air that we breathe. Over the next few decades, we started to reduce or attempt to reduce the pollutants that damage our health.
In 1997, HSE (Health & Safety Executive) recommendations were brought in to improve the air that we breathe in the workplace. The (HVCA) now the BESA, introduced TR17, BSRIA introduced recommendations for clean air conditioning systems, and at the same time CIBSE introduced TM26.
In 1986 the Swiss Government banned fires in the home and retrained their chimney sweeps to clean air conditioning systems. 47 of them were trained at the AEME Ltd training centre based in Devon, which was the first training school of its type anywhere in the world. The UK was in the lead of clean-air procedures.
Over the next few decades, advances were rapid in the methods of cleaning air-conditioning systems, led by BESA and CIBSE in the UK and later in the late 1980s by NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) in the Americas. The world was beginning to wake up to the dangers of indoor air pollution.
AEME’s training tutors realised that it was no longer possible to send cleaners to sites who were only reading the requirements, as set out by the various bodies. It was recognised that we had to train technicians who understood all the aspects of how these systems worked. In restructuring the programme, our training centres were updated and the first to include mock ups of the various systems. The various methods used to clean the systems were also updated. So, it was imperative that suitable training centres incorporated these methods to be able to train technicians in the use of these techniques.
Between 1980 and 1986 British companies, in collaboration with Swiss companies like GME, started to develop some of the best cleaning equipment and methods in the world. These were quickly imitated by companies all around the globe, whilst British companies like AEME, still led the world in training.
It was still incredibly difficult to convince people of the need to keep clean the environmental air that we breathe, but we are now making inroads to draw this issue to the attention of building owners and users. We formed a group of our industry’s leading companies under the guidance of the then HVCA (now BESA) and started to set the standards with the publications TR17 and the first edition of TR19 edition.
AEME started to work with the BESA to improve our training methods in line with the ‘Green book’, headed by Roger Brown at the BESA. AEME produced the first-edition manual in 1988, the second edition in line with the BESA in 1998. New methods were developed to measure the amount of pollution, and there was a special category covering hospitals (HC30). Section 7, kitchen extracts, and CIBSE’s mould and bacteria testing were second to none at the release of their TM26 in 2000.
We were now getting feedback from other countries that the BESA standards were being recommended around the world. Through our training centres in the UK, we were now training Russians, French, Italians, Japanese, and Americans, who have all begun to realise how important the cleaning of ventilation systems is and the improvement it can make to indoor air quality.
The smoking ban in 2007 brought in awareness and the realisation of what IAQ (indoor air quality) was all about. People began to notice the improvements in their indoor working environment.
We were now beginning to look in depth at the causes of ill health in our workplaces that are caused by the environment around us. We breathe in moulds, bacteria and other pollutants such as dust on a daily basis. To counteract this, new methods of measurements have been developed, such as DIFCO and NADCA tests and also the WFTT (wet film thickness tests) for grease extract systems.
The breakthrough came in 2011 when the BSI introduced its national guidelines for air-conditioning systems (BS EN 15780), due to be reviewed in 2016. For the first time a national all-encompassing standard was set.
The BESA reviewed TR19 and DW/144 for the first time in 2015. The standard states that designers must take into account the maintenance and cleaning of ductwork in their building developments.
To this end, in May 2015, AEME after three years of collaboration and a joint £300 000 investment with Ductclean UK and Overclean, (two leading companies in their field of air-conditioning cleaning over many decades) opened the most advanced training centre in the world.
This centre was opened by the NADCA president Bill Benito, with senior executives of the BESA and ADCAS in attendance.
The UK and its associations have led the world in the development of IAQ. With the continued efforts of our UK companies, we should continue to show the way to the rest of the world how important IAQ is to our continuing healthy environment.
Thanks to BSRIA, CIBSE, BESA and BSI, we continue to improve and lead. As a country we have a lot to be proud of in the field of IAQ.
Peter Reid is chief executive of AEME and Overclean.