Healthy and Energy-Efficient Buildings through Ventilation Systems

August 1, 2022

Led by the City of Melbourne, A.G. Coombs joined the BREATH project to help research sustainable ways to retrofit buildings to improve ventilation and make it safer and healthier for office workers to return to work and stop the spread of viruses.

Image Reference: Andrew Bott Photography/The University of Melbourne.

At the start of 2022, the City of Melbourne conducted an innovative world-first research project called BREATH which found that straightforward changes to ventilation systems can significantly decrease the transmission of COVID-19 and reduce energy consumption in office buildings.

The BREATH pilot tested and evaluated three different ventilation systems in a vacant CBD building over three months:

  1. Displacement ventilation air conditioning
  2. In-ceiling air filters
  3. Natural airflow through open windows.

Until now, office building managers have been making efforts to reduce COVID-19 transmission by opening windows to maximise ventilation, increasing air change rates, adding filtration and flushing air through the building. However, these actions can all increase energy consumption, cost more and compromise comfort.

The BREATH pilot project is led by the City of Melbourne and delivered in partnership with Cbus Property, University of Melbourne, A.G. Coombs, SEED Engineering and Westaflex, with peer review by AURECON.

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the study was important because the fear of infection remains a barrier for some city workers returning to the office.

“We encourage building owners, tenants and partners to take the BREATH findings on board, and to help us create more healthy and sustainable workspaces in the CBD.”

For more information on the BREATH project, including the test outcomes, visit:

For more information on COVID-19 and Building Services; visit:

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