Human activities have contributed significantly to the creation of air borne pollutants, largely as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Air pollution can result in harm to the natural environment and adverse effects on human health.
The effects of long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory and inflammatory illness and also more serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. More information on the health effects is provided on the UK AIR website.
In February 2016, the Royal College of Physicians published 'Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution' in which they claimed that each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution. See BSRIA responds to UK Air Pollution Report for more information.
The UK national emission totals are reported on an annual basis to the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The convention agreed, amongst other protocols, the Gothenberg Protocol which sets emission reduction targets to be achieved by 2020.
The limits for certain pollutants is set by the EU ambient air quality directives. In recent decades, the air pollution levels in the UK have declined significantly and the UK meets the air quality standards for the majority of pollutants. One pollutant that remains problematic is nitrogen dioxide levels close to roads in urban areas.
 European directives
Relevant EU directives include:
- The Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC and the 2004 Directive which set pollution limits for outdoors.
- The EU National Emissions Ceilings Directive (2001/81/EC) which sets pollution limits for all member states.
 National legislation
In the UK, under the Environment Act 1995 and the Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002, local authorities are required to review air quality and designate management areas if improvements are required.
Other relevant legislation includes:
- Air Quality (Standards) Regulations 2010.
- Air Quality (England) Regulations 2000.
- National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2002.
The Environment Agency are the regulators for air quality levels from large industrial processes and work with the local authorities and Highways England to manage the government’s Air Quality Strategy.
The seven main pollutants that are covered by the 2000 Regulations are:
- 1,3 Butadiene.
- Carbon monoxide.
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
- Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5).
- Sulphur dioxide.
 Local Air Quality Management
A Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) framework was established by the government under the Environment Act 1995, and requires local authorities to assess air quality within their areas. Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) are then designated where the UK standards and objectives are not being met.
 Development and air quality
Many development projects have the potential to affect air quality and where appropriate, an air quality assessment may be required. Air quality assessments are typically undertaken by independent consultants and consider both the construction and operational phases of the project. They may be required as part of a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or as a stand-alone report submitted in support of a planning application.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Air change rates.
- Air Quality Taskforce.
- At a glance - Indoor air quality.
- BSRIA responds to UK Air Pollution Report.
- Building related illness.
- Construction dust.
- Contaminated land.
- Deleterious materials.
- Environmental impact assessment.
- Fertilizer groundwater pollution.
- Greenhouse gas.
- Indoor air quality.
- Indoor environmental quality.
- Nuisance in construction.
- Ozone depleting substance.
- Planning permission.
- Sick building syndrome.
- Sustainable materials.
- TSI Environmental dust monitoring system.
 External references
Featured articles and news
The origins, evolution and future of Level 3 BIM.
For new and returning Urban Design students, check out our article list divided up into the modules you'll be studying.
Report states that health of urban dwellers could be significantly improved by rethinking transport design.
The Kremlin, the centre of Russian power, includes some of the country's finest architecture.
Report launched outlining steps for a national infrastructure system that is efficient, sustainable, and delivers until 2050.
A review of Justin Bere's concise and well-presented introductory guide to Passive House.
This article describes in detail the tender process for a typical commercial construction contract.
What is energy storage, what are the different types and what is its future?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a state-of-the-art concert hall in Beijing.
Take a look at BIG's designs for two twisting towers in New York City.
'The filing cabinet' which was labelled one of the best British buildings of the 21st century.