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Learning from the pandemic: The importance of clean air

Clean-air systems will give fans confidence to return to music venues when restrictions are lifted, writes OKTO Technologies’ Philip Dowds

21 Jun 2021

Philip Dowds, OKTOair

After a crippling year for the music sector, hope is on the horizon as the world tarts to reopen and people look forward to seeing live music return to the stage. However, the industry still faces several obstacles to tackle as it navigates reopening. Many venues are still unable to operate at full capacity, and it is understandable that people may be hesitant to attend live music events, especially amongst crowds in poor or unventilated indoor venues.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the importance of indoor air quality, with the British Medical Journal recently sharing findings of how SARS-CoV-2 particles behave indoors. The team of scientists examined how SARS-CoV-2 particles can behave like a cloud of exhaled smoke, being most concentrated at ‘short range’ distance (<1m). However, particles dispersed over longer distances (>2m) can linger in the air for hours, posing risks to those exposed even after the original source has left. The risk of indoor particle transmission is highest in indoor environments lacking proper ventilation and is a huge reason for indoor venues and workplaces having to stay closed for the time that they have. The Building Engineering Services Association and scientists around the world are calling for improvements to building ventilation and to have the current regulations completely rewritten to bolster safety standards.

Despite a renewed focus on indoor air quality and ventilation after the pandemic, there is still not enough being done to actively clean indoor air and encourage patrons to return to indoor events venues. There is a key opportunity for event organisers and venue managers across the music sector to future-proof venues, using innovative technologies such as air quality monitoring and management systems to monitor and control the air, removing pollutants in real time. As clean air technology experts, we understand that the safety and wellbeing of your staff and clients is of the utmost importance. Technologies using HEPA filtering with advanced DFS technology that permanently removes ultra-fine particles from any space, and instant monitoring and reporting, make a huge difference to the safety of indoor air, killing pollutants and providing managers with accurate data and controls – these solutions far exceed the European Guidelines EN 1822.

Ensuring the solutions that you choose are chemical- and ozone-free is crucial; we should not be creating a healthier space by adding new problems to the environment with technology such as plasma, bi-polar and ozone generation. These systems while killing bacteria, add further pollution sources into the space with microorganisms. Seeing solutions implemented by venues will give newfound confidence to people wanting to return to events spaces, as well as peace of mind for event managers wanting to ensure the safety of customers. This is of particular importance to the music industry, where spaces are often not just indoors, but without any access to outdoor ventilation.

Technology designed to clean up indoor air … will help live music bounce back in the safest way possible

Crucially, the responsibility should not just be on event organisers and venue managers to implement such solutions. The music industry will surely welcome recovery funding along with guidance around testing and capacity for holding events. However, guidance and funding must also be provided around solutions to indoor air quality, ensuring venues do not have to close again and that they are well-prepared for future waves of Covid-19 or other seasonal viruses. With awareness around indoor air quality and how to manage it so low, it is essential that businesses are provided with proper statutory guidance and advice.

Indoor air quality management also goes further than responding to the pandemic. The long-term health impacts of polluted air are widely noted but rarely acted upon, with people living and working in dirty air far more likely to suffer from issues such as asthma and COPD. What’s more, working in clean air is shown to have a positive effect on worker productivity and happiness. Harvard University has carried out studies on the impact of improved indoor air quality in workspaces, finding that high-performing, green-certified buildings resulted in far greater productivity and health outcomes for employees. In 2015, research found that improving the ventilation of buildings improved the performance of workers by 8%, equivalent to a USD $6,500 increase in employee productivity each year. As well as positive impacts on productivity, the Harvard Business Review last year cited studies that showed significant decreases in employee output as both indoor temperature and rates of outdoor air delivered inside increase. All in all, analysis of sick leave data found that 57% of all time off for illness was due to poor ventilation.

This is why indoor air quality solutions could also bring long-term benefits to those working in the live music industry. The case for investing in innovation grows even stronger when it comes to considering those working and performing in smaller spaces such as sound and lighting booths and recording studios where air quality and circulation is poor. When it comes to live events, those such as organisers, managers, technicians, bar staff and musicians themselves who spend much of their working days in indoor spaces would no doubt be helped by the monitoring and filtering of dirty indoor air. Innovation can drastically change the future of air quality in live music, and even now at OKTOair we have the capabilities to disinfect the air in spaces, chemical and ozone free, ranging from 500 square feet to one million square feet, offering concertgoers ultimate protection and peace of mind.

There are a number of reasons for the live music industry to turn its eye to innovative technology designed to clean up indoor air. Not least will it help live music bounce back in the safest way possible, giving confidence to consumers and venues alike, it will also help ensure that those integral to the backbone of culture can work in safe, clean spaces designed for the future.


Philip Dowds is managing director of OKTO Technologies.

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