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AIRBODS project targets safe UK events return

Led by Loughborough University, AIRBODS (Airborne Infection Reduction through Building Operation and Design for SARS-CoV-2) is exploring how ventilation and other factors affect the risk of transmission at large public gatherings. Data from a recent nightclub event in Liverpool as well as the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield is already being analysed, with further trials taking place at London’s O2 and Wembley Stadium.

“Getting our lives back to some sense of normal following the pandemic is a huge challenge and doing it in a safe and measured way even more so,” said research lead Malcolm Cook, Professor of Building Performance Analysis at Loughborough’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering.

“The large-scale events industry has been shut down for over a year. The work we are doing will help get these types of events and venues back up and running in a safe way, providing scientifically proven information and advice on ventilation and building management, to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of Covid-19, and other viruses, as much as possible.”

Taking place over 18 months, the AIRBODS study will be carried out in collaboration with University College London, the University of Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, the University of Sheffield and London South Bank University. The work will aim to quantify the risk of airborne transmission through a combination of experimental work, measurement of environmental factors in buildings, and computer modelling.

Combining data on ventilation, numbers of people present, and microbiological analysis of surfaces and air in the venues, the team will develop a Relative Exposure Index based on a benchmark case. This will help building managers and authorities assess the risk of certain events, as well as mitigate against risk by adapting building design and ventilation measures.

“It will not only benefit this sector, it can be used in all non-domestic settings, including healthcare, education and retail,” said Professor Cook. “Our approach to the research will also mean the knowledge and tools we generate will be relevant for the mitigation of a wide range of airborne hazards across the spectrum of indoor environments for many years to come.

“The data we have already been able to collect from the events in Liverpool and Sheffield is proving very interesting and we look forward to learning as much as we can from it.”

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