The public debate on IAQ is likely to translate into regulatory pressure to enhance the current parameters for air quality in HVAC specification. Before the recommendations of regulators can convert into actionable and enforceable building codes there will be a time lag. Meanwhile, the market demand from building owners and investors, primarily in some key verticals, is likely to steer specification towards best practice schemes especially in new construction.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have long been the most adopted schemes for buildings’ certification globally. Both predominantly look at buildings’ environmental sustainability. In contrast, WELL Building Standard, a relatively new certification scheme, launched in 2015, mainly considers building’ occupants' health & wellbeing.
LEED includes prescriptions in relation to the IAQ in its latest version 4.1 issued in 2018. However, in 2020, the Green Building Council started to release pilot credits to promote precautionary best practice to manage air quality during the Covid-19 pandemic (Safety first).
Regulation, building codes and best practice schemes can impact where there are the resources, building practices and enforcement capabilities. Developed countries have a governance structure, expertise, financial capability, and public awareness that can sustain the implementation effort of improvements in construction. In emerging or low-income countries, governments have short-term economic development targets as a political priority and both the public and private sectors have limited resources for adopting expensive schemes, albeit beneficial in the long term. Paradoxically, in poorer countries the current pandemic, emptying the already depleted public coffers and depressing demand for construction, has worsened the possibility of a progress towards wellness and sustainability.