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New air cleaning guides aim to reduce COVID risk

How can charities ensure that they are maintaining good air quality in the workplace? The Chartered Institute of Building Services issues new guidance on how to reduce COVID-19 transmission by improving ventilation.

A close-up of a yellow fan.

A fan will move air and can thereby increase ventilation, but it won't clean the air. (Photo: Kenneth Lu via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)


Date published
Annette McGill

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has published two new guides on ventilation and air cleaning technology.

CIBSE says good ventilation is essential to reduce occupants' exposure to airborne pathogens, including COVID-19 and influenza, as well as the common cold. The guides are designed to help building owners and operators to reduce the risk of airborne infection.

How to ensure good air quality

The guide 'COVID-19 ventilation' is for business owners, employers, building owners, managers, operators and anyone maintaining buildings. It will be especially useful for facilities managers who are being asked to ensure that workplaces are COVID secure.

The guide outlines the ventilation systems most commonly encountered in buildings and advises how they can be used to maintain adequate air quality and reduce the airborne infection risk. 

The guide is also designed to help fms and people who operate and maintain building systems to identify the areas of a building and elements of ventilation systems that may need particular attention in order to reduce risk to occupants. 

CIBSE says in well-managed new buildings designed to current regulations, ventilation rates are likely to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

In older buildings, it may be difficult to assess the effectiveness of ventilation, so CIBSE's guidance also includes advice on the use of CO2 monitoring. High levels of CO2 are an indication of poor ventilation and show where further measures are needed to improve air quality.

The guide is relevant to all types of building ventilation systems, whether natural, mechanical or full air conditioning. 

Cleaning the air

For spaces where all efforts to increases ventilation fail to provide sufficient ventilation to dilute and remove airborne pathogens, air cleaning devices may be an option.

CIBSE's second new guide, entitled 'COVID-19: Air cleaning technologies', is designed to help readers to assess the different types of air cleaning devices that are currently being marketed as removing COVID-19. It also offers advice on which air cleaner – if any – will effectively reduce risk transmission.

CIBSE says this guidance be of use to general readers and also to those requiring detailed background about airflow performance metrics, pollutant and viral decay, and tools assessing the performance of air cleaners in context. 

The air cleaning guide is divided into two parts. The first part summarises what is currently known about air cleaners and makes general recommendations about selecting such devices. It also gives advice on whether a device is likely to be effective in a particular situation.

 The second part offers more detail for building services engineers, facilities managers and others involved in the provision of ventilation. It gives guidance on measuring airflow, pollutant levels and the rate of decay in contaminant levels. It also provides a tool for assessing the potential performance of air cleaners in particular applications.

Both guides are available to download free from the CIBSE website.


CIBSE is the professional body that exists to ‘support the Science, Art and Practice of building services engineering'. It has more than 20,000 members in  100 countries and publishes a wide range of technical information. CIBSE's 'Emerging from Lockdown' page features several other guides which will be useful for charity facilities managers looking to ensure tha their workplaces are COVID secure.