What is an Air Quality Assessment?

Air quality isthe term used to describe how polluted the air we breathe is. Considering we take approximately 20,000 breaths every day, when was the last time that you thought about the chemicals, pollen and dust you could be inhaling with each breath. When air quality is poor, pollutants in the air may be hazardous to people causing eye irritation, inflamed airways and damage to the respiratory tract. Clean air is a basic requirement of a healthy environment for us all to live and work in. 

An Air Quality Assessment is an assessment undertaken to establish the baseline air quality and is usually required for any development that has the potential to impact the existing environment or if the environment has the potential to affect the sensitive development.  

Internal and External Air Quality Assessments

Air Quality Assessments can be internal or external. An internal Air Quality Assessment tests the air quality within and around buildings and structures. The process of an indoor air quality assessment would include the collection and analysis of air samples as well as the swabbing and evaluation of samples from internal surfaces. 

An external air quality assessment can be a simple air quality screening assessment or a detailed air quality assessment involving dispersion modelling. The type of air quality assessment required depends on a number of factors including the size of the development, its proposed location and the extent of current knowledge about levels of pollutants close to the site. A detailed air quality assessment should quantify the air pollution exposure in accordance with the “Air Quality Impact Significance Criteria – New Exposure” and justify any mitigation measures associated with the design, location and operation of the development in order to reduce air pollution. 

Air Quality Assessments for Planning Applications

The monitoring of the air quality measures air pollutants such as gasses and particles. The monitoring of such pollutants allows for the improvement of the air quality through design of buildings and the control and implementation of mitigation measures. 

An Air Quality Assessment may be required as part of a planning application for developments which are likely to significantly affect local traffic flows, traffic composition or developments that are built close to existing busy roads. An Air Quality Assessment suitable for planning should include a review of the air quality around the development using monitoring or modelling, an assessment on the air quality during the construction phase and the air quality at the operational phase. 

Improving air quality is crucial in reducing the negative health impacts  and providing a better quality of life.