Indoor Air Quality a Growing Concern

Ireland’s Proposed Workplace Ventilation Bill


Over the past 18 months, with much of the world ravaged by COVID-19, governments globally have resorted to implementing prolonged lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus. With only key workers out on our roads, many cities across the globe found a significant reduction in air pollution, with formerly smog-ridden landscapes in places like China experiencing clearer air.

 In an article for The Conversation, University of York Researchers David Carslaw and Nicola Carlslaw describe how, with outdoor pollution likely to reduce over the coming decades, there now needs to be an increased focus on indoor air quality. You can read this article in full here:

Earlier this week People Before Profit launched a campaign for the Workplace Ventilation Bill, which, if passed, could force bars and schools in Irelands with poor ventilation to close. The party’s Employment Rights spokesperson, Paul Murphy, says proper ventilation standards are needed to cap the amount of CO2 allowed indoors and enable workers to request an inspection if they’re concerned about compliance. Workplaces that fail to comply with an inspector’s ‘improvement notice’ could be forced to shut. Current laws require workplaces to ensure ‘sufficient fresh air’, however, there is no clarity about what this entails. McKeon Group company specialises in Smart Buildings (and Happy Buildings!), with an expert focus on indoor air quality. With Irish construction standards resulting in increasingly insulated and airtight homes, concerns about indoor air quality are growing. 


Side-Effects of Electric Vehicle Use

The two researchers are at pains to point out that while a reduction in road traffic is good for photo opportunities comparing smog levels, other factors need to be considered regarding air pollution with far-reaching ramifications for indoor planning and facilities management.

With more and more people opting for electric vehicles and nation’s around the world setting cut-off dates for non-green vehicle production, it does appear the reign of fossil fuel is over. One of the most striking problems put forward as we move towards a greener future is that we may find an increase in respiratory problems.

 While vehicles have been one of the primary sources of air pollution over past decades, this move to electric vehicles means less nitrogen oxide is being released into the atmosphere. One of the few benefits of this pollutant is that it neutralises the toxic gas, ozone, released by industrial activity. High up in our atmosphere, this gas forms a protective seal around our planet, however, unneutralised and down in our communities and urban areas, it acts as a pollutant, causing respiratory problems like asthma.


Ozone Gas Moves Indoors

The concern is that this pernicious gas moves freely from outside to inside our buildings, through our windows, open doors, and even cracks in exterior walls, bringing the problem of outdoor pollutants well and truly indoors. Corroborating this claim is a 2020 UK government report that used computer modeling to establish a 50 percent increase in indoor ozone gas during COVID-19 related lockdowns.

 Worryingly, the University of York researchers explain that after finding its way indoors, ozone gas begins to react with chemicals related to indoor activity, such as household cleaning solutions. These newly emitted pollutants often pose significant risks to our health.


Indoor Air Pollution and Ventilation

Citing a report by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the article explains that ozone is but one of the issues affecting indoor air quality. Common-place activities such as cooking a steak on a gas hob, for example, will release nitrogen oxide and particulates into our immediate environment, as well as the volatile organic compounds emitted from scented cleaning products and candles.

 The issue is also seen as compounding, with some of these harmful compounds forming new pollutants as they react with the higher levels of indoor ozone. Also compounding the issue is the increased use of airtight seals in modern construction. While these seals afford better energy efficiency, they don’t allow harmful gases and pollutants produced by indoor activity to escape. The emphasis on adequate ventilation systems is therefore expected to increase, aside from the pandemic-induced measures.

 And with many now continuing to work from home, our indoor air quality is more important than ever. Due to an increasing trend of spending time indoors, the majority of pollution we are likely to encounter in the future will come from within our own homes and workplaces.


A Complex Problem

While ventilation allows the dilution of pollutants, it offers the chance for more ozone gas to enter our buildings, meaning any proposed solutions are unlikely to be straightforward.

With long-term exposure to air pollution leading to serious health issues such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, the need to understand the issue becomes pressing. The drive to produce clean air outside is making the issue of clean air inside a complex problem. The researchers point out that the effects of outdoor pollutants such as nitrogen oxide are relatively well understood compared to the indoor pollutants that have, so far, gone unstudied.

For expert advice in this area, contact the team at McKeon Group


About McKeon Group

Established in 1950 and ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The family-run Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact:



Evolving role of HVAC systems to mitigate the spread of COVID-19


Following on from our previously published article on ‘Understanding the role of building ventilation in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021’, which can be accessed here, this week – as workplaces prepare for the return of staff and customers – we are exploring the role of HVAC systems and how these are evolving to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

As mechanical and electrical specialists, when approaching HVAC installations or upgrades, the first step is always to understand the overall needs of the clients and the specific needs of the building, with consideration to the existing infrastructure, building and control systems. There is no ‘one size fits all solution’, rather, our team develops a custom-designed solution that meets clients demands in terms of optimising operational and energy efficiency, and increasing user comfort. Going forward, greater control over plant and equipment is likely to be prioritised by the building operators, together with an enhanced, integrated user interface.

There are a number of HVAC measures that have been proven to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to industry resource website–19283, including:


1) HEPA filtration: High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove more than 99.9 percent of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or greater, including pollen, dust, some bacteria and some viruses. The coronavirus has a diameter of about 0.1 microns, however, as the virus typically attaches to exhaled water droplets that are 5 microns or larger, they can be trapped by a HEPA filter. 

2) Outdoor-air ventilation rates: HVAC systems have evolved to operate with a minimum of outside air. Increased levels of outdoor air will dilute contaminants inside, including COVID-19, however, this increases heating and air conditioning costs as the system must raise or lower the temperature of outside air to the temperature of the conditioned space. According to the previously mentioned article, higher rates of outdoor-air ventilation might not help much in the fight against the coronavirus, “but higher ventilation rates coupled with other good practices can curtail the spread of the virus from one area in a building to another area served by the same system”.

3) Humidity levels: Research has now shown that the virus remains airborne longer and can travel farther in dryer conditions, therefore relative humidity of 40-60 percent might help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The article cautions that not all HVAC systems can maintain these high humidity levels year round so the operation of the systems and spaces should be monitored for signs of condensation and/or mold.


The above measures prioritise minimising the spread of Covid-19, which can – temporarily – run contrary to energy efficiency and best practice. For more about this, please see McKeon Group insights on ‘COVID-19 Preventative Measures vs. Energy Conservation in Office Buildings . For expert advice, contact the team at


About McKeon Group

Established in 1950 and ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The family-run Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact:


McKeon Group: Proud Sponsor of the Fit Out Awards 2020

Taking place on Wednesday, November 25th, at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, Dublin


It has been a strange few months for the industry. Even during the period of shutdown, the McKeon team and most of our peers and supply chain were exceptionally busy making the necessary changes to projects, building schedules, work processes and to our physical sites. There was no quiet time, when activity stopped, planning, preparation, re-imagining and re-engineering took hold. But, there is nothing quite like a crisis to bring out the best and while this has always been true for construction, the past six weeks back on non-essential building sites have proven the resilience and ingenuity of the industry once again.  


It is important to celebrate this resilience, ingenuity and industry expertise so McKeon Group is  delighted to announce sponsorship of the Fit Out Awards 2020, for the fourth year. 


Launched back in 2012 – another chaotic time for our industry – the Fit Out Awards recognise and celebrate excellence in this specialist sector. Ireland-based fit out teams have earned a reputation for world-class delivery.


After months of working in isolation and socialising virtually, we are looking forward to getting together with industry colleagues and peers on Wednesday, November 25th, at the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road, Dublin. Every year, this Awards Gala is attended by Ireland’s top fit out professionals and, as one of the few social events to take place this Autumn, the 2020 Fit Out Awards is set to be an unmissable occasion.  


Recognition of excellence is always important, however, this year, the networking, the celebration and the coming together of respected peers is especially welcome. 


For the McKeon team, there has never been a more critical time for us, as an industry leader, to show support to clients and colleagues in this important sector. We hope that you will consider applying for the Awards ( and attending on the night. Best of luck to all involved!


About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact: