Research findings a breath of fresh air for office workers
*A City of Melbourne media release*
An innovative research project has found simple changes to ventilation systems can significantly decrease the transmission of COVID-19 and reduce energy consumption in office buildings.
The City of Melbourne BREATH pilot tested and evaluated three different ventilation systems in a vacant CBD building over three months: displacement ventilation air conditioning, in-ceiling air filters and natural airflow through open windows.
The first-of-its-kind study aims to support the accelerated return of up to 400,000 CBD office workers.
The project found:
– All three ventilation systems reduced the potential transmission of airborne viruses when compared to standard ceiling-based air conditioning, improving safety for office workers.
– Displacement ventilation air conditioning – which supplies air from floor level – was the most effective and energy efficient system tested, reducing COVID-19 transmission by 83 per cent, while also reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent.
– Displacement ventilation is the most expensive to install, but there are no additional ongoing maintenance costs.
– In-ceiling air filters reduced virus transmission by 49 per cent but resulted in a minor increase in energy consumption.
– Opening windows reduced virus transmission by 53 per cent, but increased energy use by up to 20 per cent with seasonal temperature variations.
– Opening windows is not available to all office buildings and is not a viable solution due to Melbourne’s climate.
– The BREATH project was led by City of Melbourne and delivered in partnership with Cbus Property, University of Melbourne, AG Coombs, SEED Engineering and Westaflex, with peer review by AURECON.
For more information about the BREATH project and findings, see here.
Quotes attributable to Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece:
“Bringing people back to the city safely remains a key priority for the City of Melbourne, and that’s why we have undertaken this pilot study.
“This industry-leading research has identified simple but effective changes that can be implemented in office buildings to help workers feel safe, comfortable and protected.
“The research findings are publicly available online and free for any organisation to access. We encourage building owners, tenants and partners to take them on board, and to help us create more healthy and sustainable workspaces in the CBD.”
Quotes attributable to Sustainable Building portfolio lead Councillor Elizabeth Doidge:
“We’re proud to be leading the way with this research, which will not only help to protect Melburnians from the transmission of airborne viruses but can also benefit businesses by helping to reduce their environmental footprint and operating costs.
“We’re committed to working closely with our partners and will continue to support the creation of buildings that are more sustainable for our environment and for the future of our city, its businesses and its people.”
Quotes attributable to The University of Melbourne Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Head of Mechanical Engineering, Jason Monty:
“BREATH is a world-first collaboration between local government, industry and academics, which has given us the knowledge to predict the best type of retrofit to simultaneously reduce carbon footprint and infectious disease transmission.
“Since the majority of city energy cost goes to ventilation of our buildings, the outcomes from BREATH will improve our ability to reach net zero carbon faster.”
Quotes attributable to Cbus Property’s Chief Executive Officer, Adrian Pozzo:
“Cbus Property is proud to be involved with this research project using our building at 423 Bourke Street, Melbourne, which has been earmarked for redevelopment, so we can better understand how to keep our tenants safer by increasing levels of fresh air in the workplace.
“One of the key challenges with enhancing indoor air quality and mitigating potential transmission of airborne viruses such as COVID-19, is to balance that with energy performance of our buildings.
“As Australia’s highest environmentally performing sustainable office portfolio in the NABERS Sustainable Portfolios index for the past three years, we are particularly interested in trying to overcome this challenge, which is why we have partnered with the City of Melbourne and the University of Melbourne to pilot these technologies.”
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