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Air conditioning gets a clean bill of health

AIR CONDITIONING can provide a healthier environment than natural ventilation, according to a recent report.

The Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) and the North West Lung Centre came to this conclusion in a study of five buildings both air conditioned and naturally ventilated. The study was started in 1989, and included a doctor-administered questionnaire to the occupants.

Of the buildings studied, those with air conditioning had the lowest levels of reported building sickness symptoms. The report concluded that air conditioned buildings can provide a better environment to work in than those which are naturally ventilated.

I was surprised by the results myself, said the reports author, Nigel Potter of BSRIA.

This is welcome news to the air conditioning industry, whose reputation has been damaged by the belief that air conditioning causes Sick Building Syndrome.

The report helps to highlight the risks for all occupiers when building designers blindly follow the current trend for buildings without air conditioning, said a spokesman from the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board.

But Professor Peter Smith, chairman of the environment and energy committee of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said air conditioning was probably only a healthier option in areas such as built-up city centres.

The RIBA line is that in this country air conditioning is unnecessary except in special circumstances. My experience of a fully-sealed building is that the incidence of infective illness is much higher, he said.