Gyms need to ‘seriously’ evaluate their ventilation before reopening

Image: Vent-Axia

A firm which supplied ventilation to the Nightingale Hospital in London has warned that gyms need to ‘seriously evaluate’ their ventilation to ensure it works effectively ahead of their reopening.

The warning from Vent-Axia came following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) changing stance on the spread of Covid-19 with the organisation suggesting the “possibility of aerosol transmission.”

Gyms in England are set to reopen on July 25. A date has not been set for a reopening in Scotland, with Nicola Sturgeon confirming that they will not open in line with other phase 3 measures on July 31.

In a statement, Vent-Axia said, “Before reopening businesses need to seriously evaluate their ventilation to ensure it works effectively and does not under-ventilate which is critical to reduce airborne transmission of Covid-19.”

The UK Government recently released guidance for gyms on reopening. The document included a section on ‘Air extraction and ventilation measures’. An extract read, “The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100sqft per person. For this figure, the area is the net useable indoor facility space available to members to use, including changing rooms, toilet and wash facilities. Reducing capacity in this way whilst sustaining ventilation flows, will increase the typical current 10l/s/p flow rate of ventilation to at least 20l/s/p, as fewer people are being served by the ventilation system.”

It continued by advising that ventilation systems should provide 100% fresh air with no recirculation of air from one space to another. Fans running at full speed to maximise airflow; ventilation running 24/7; regular filter changes to allow for optimum airflow; and CO2 sensors to be used if air changes are unknown as a surrogate indicator to switch on additional mechanical ventilation for open windows.

David Cook, technical product manager at Vent-Axia, said, “Ventilation has repeatedly been cited in Government statements and guidance as a way to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 indoors. The recent WHO guidance has added further weight to a raft of academic papers suggesting aerosol transmission of the virus. With all this global scientific evidence the Government is now clearly advocating ventilation in the fight against COVID-19. At Vent-Axia we are here to provide ventilation solutions and advice to gyms and leisure facilities. With the lockdown set to ease on the 25 July and gyms reopening, businesses need to ensure their premises are as safe as possible for staff and customers.

“Now is the time to check ventilation to ensure there is enough airflow to dilute the virus in the air and improve indoor air quality. Ventilating for longer and opting for ventilation with higher airflow volumes will also help reduce the risk. Following the Government’s guidance on density of occupation and the necessary airflow is critical.”

Vent-Axia also pointed towards the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers’ (CIBSE) Covid-19 ventilation guidance. The firm said that CIBSE’s ‘overarching’ advice is to increase the air supply and exhaust ventilation – supplying as much outside air as is reasonably possible to dilute and remove the virus.

Vent-Axia extracted the following advice on ventilation from the document,  “Extending the operation times of supply and extract mechanical ventilation systems; start ventilation at nominal speed at least 2 hours before the building usage time and switch to lower speed 2 hours after the building usage time; in demand-controlled ventilation systems lowering the CO2 setpoint to 400ppm to maintain operation; and to keep ventilation on 24/7 with lower ventilation rates when people are absent.”