17 Jan, 2024

The air we breathe affects our everyday lives and has a significant impact on our health. An Air Quality Assessment is the assessment of ambient external air quality at a proposed development and/or the impact of a proposed development on air quality.

Due to the potential impact of high air pollution concentrations and the legislation governing it, air quality should be considered at an early stage.

Air Quality Assessments Explained

Air Quality Assessments are used by local authorities and relevant stakeholders to determine whether a development may have potentially significant effects on existing and future building occupiers.

There are various types of air quality assessment required depending on the size, location and future use of the development. Whilst there are a variety of terms used to describe these assessments, some of these are as follows:

  • Air Quality Exposure Assessment
  • Air Quality Impact Assessment
  • Dust Risk Assessment
  • Air Quality Neutral Assessment
  • Air Quality Positive Assessment
  • Odour Assessment
  • Air Quality Monitoring

Air Quality Exposure and Impact Assessments involve using computer software to model transport and fixed point emission sources on nearby sensitive receptors in the opening year of the proposed development.

Dust Risk Assessments assess the likely impact of planned construction activities on the local area and provide measures to mitigate the potential impact of this.

Air Quality Neutral Assessments (only required in London) assess the potential impact of the transport and building emissions against defined benchmarks set by the GLA. These benchmarks set out the maximum allowed emissions of NOx and particulate matter.

Air Quality Positive Assessments aim to identify and implement ways to ensure developments go beyond compliance and the requirements of the air quality assessment. 

Odour Assessments are often required when there is a potential for loss of amenity or accompany an environmental permit application.

Finally, Air Quality Monitoring can take many forms and is required for a wide range of reasons. This is often linked to construction phase noise and vibration services. 

Compliance & Regulations

Air Quality is regulated by Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 and provides legally binding limits for concentrations of all major air pollutants that impact public health. 

In England, there are further regulations on the most harmful air pollutants – fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

When is an Air Quality Assessment Required?

Air Quality is a consideration across the RIBA plan of works from strategic definition and site suitability to detailed design.

Used to inform the layout and design of the building, the assessment of air quality should be seen as an iterative process which is constantly updated and helps guide the development design.

Air Quality Assessments in Planning Applications

Local authorities have a legal duty to review and assess air quality within their boundary. Depending on the size, location and use of development, air quality may be affected and so would be a requirement for validation of a planning application.

In some instances, information will not be known at this early stage and so air quality will form part of the planning conditions to be discharged when further information is available.

Air Quality Assessments in Early Development Stages

The most effective way to find innovative solutions in minimising the air quality impact of a development is for air quality to form part of the feasibility assessment. This will identify key constraints and potential considerations for the site’s future land use. 

Identifying the key constraints at an early stage can guide the design to ensure that it is air quality sensitive.

Air Quality Assessments by Stroma Built Environment

At Stroma, we have over 14 years of experience in air quality modelling and assessments. 

By working with Stroma as your strategic partners, we can support you with any air quality issues you may have. Contact our team to find out more.