Air Quality Assessments Explained

Air quality assessments have become such a prolific factor in planning applications that developers and industrial managers can’t fail to acknowledge that they’re likely to be subjected to an assessment before the foundations have even been laid.

Most people are oblivious to the extensive regulations for construction sites and industrial facilities (which are incredibly strict) and for small business owners this is understandable. However, even the most ‘low-impact’ businesses can require an air quality assessment, especially if the business is located in a residential area or a location that is notoriously poor for existing air quality.

Air quality might be a thorn in your side on top of other environmental considerations and extensive building regulations, but adhering to  environmental standards is essential for both commencing construction work and continuing to run an existing business in many cases.

An accredited environmental consultancy can assess and monitor potential or existing emissions across a vast range of industries, but in order to determine if you’re likely to require an assessment at all, we highlight the main concerns and how this can impact on communities and environments.

Land Development and Construction
Both new constructions and the redevelopment of existing sites usually have to be assessed on the basis of how much potential air pollution the development will bring to the area. This is largely focused on increased traffic and therefore the increased exhaust fumes that could potentially impact on the health of local residents and further pollute areas with poor air quality.

Such assessments can be required for large housing developments but may also apply to small businesses such as supermarkets, which are likely to have large vehicles coming in and out of the areas in order to replenish stocks. Aside from the additional traffic that the new development could attract once it has been completed, the exhaust emissions from site traffic may also need to be assessed in some cases. Dust spreading as a result of construction may also be assessed. This will certainly be the case if the construction is likely to impact on existing local establishments such as schools or food outlets.

Industrial Emissions
Industrial emissions are understandably a byproduct that needs to be meticulously addressed and regular reporting is necessary in order to meet the Environmental Permitting Regulations. Industrial emissions can take various forms which all need to be assessed and monitored and can range from harmful chemical emissions such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide or acid gases such as hydrogen chloride. Volatile organic components (VOC) may also pose a threat that requires careful managing as can bioaerosols which are air emissions from biological processes that contain, or have been released, from living organisms.

In order to test industrial impact on the environment, dispersion modelling is used to gain an accurate picture of how air pollutants disperse into the atmosphere including site specific conditions such as meteorology and topography. As a result dispersion modelling is an essential requirement when determining any possible issues before site construction begins. Numerous dispersion modelling software packages can be used to determine pollutant levels such as ADMS4, ADMSRoads, AERMOD, Breeze-roads, Screen-view and DMRB. Once an industrial facility is established, environmental permitting regulations also require industrial sites to regularly report their stack emission atmospheric releases. A certified air quality consultancy will be required to carry out stack emissions testing.

Odour Assessment
Odour assessment isn’t necessarily restricted to large industrial sites and small business owners can certainly have to meet comprehensive legislation, even if it doesn’t seem strictly necessary.Fast food outlets are one such example of a business which may be required to submit a planning application before developing an empty premises. If the business, in this case the cooking odours, is seen to have an impact on local residents then the owner will be required to carry out suitable alterations to the ventilation system before establishing the business. Dispersion modelling software will then be used to predict the extent of the cooking odours in the general location of the take-away.

Victoria is writing on behalf on REC Resource and Environmental Consultants Ltd. REC specialist in the full spectrum of environmental services including air quality consultancy, health and safety training, ecology and renewable energy solutions.

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