Last reviewed 22 June 2022

The operational performance of buildings, including ventilation and infection resilience, should be regulated, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, as it called on the Government to mandate long-term improvements to infection control in commercial, public and residential buildings.

Its 71-page report, Infection Resilient Environments: Time for a Major Upgrade, which can be found here, was commissioned by Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Infection control must also be co-ordinated with efforts to improve energy efficiency and fire safety, to support the three goals of safe, healthy and sustainable buildings, the Royal Academy insists.

In the event of another severe pandemic during the next 60 years, the societal cost to the UK could equate to £23 billion a year, according to an economic assessment that informed the report and that is thought to be the first analysis of its kind following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even without the extreme circumstances of a pandemic, the report estimates that seasonal diseases cost the country as much as £8 billion a year in disruption and sick days.

Improving ventilation, air quality and sanitation in buildings could minimise transmission, reducing the number of people infected, thereby saving lives and reducing ill health and its societal impacts.

Academy Vice President, Professor Peter Guthrie, said: “This is not simple because the developers who commission and fund new buildings will not directly benefit from including health provisions at the design stage. Changes to regulation and standards are therefore needed for the scale of change required. The public have a right to expect that buildings and transport will be designed and managed to control infection and minimise the impact of both seasonal diseases and future pandemics.”

The report calls for the British Standards Institution (BSI) to convene the relevant expertise and develop meaningful standards that are embedded into existing design and operational practices.