Consultants warn that design rules that lead to the use of mechanical ventilation could endanger children’s health

Forum 28 centre in Cumbria, where seven died of Legionnaires’ disease

Forum 28 centre in Cumbria, where seven died of Legionnaires’ disease

Children will be exposed to a greater risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease under proposed regulations for schools, engineers have warned.

The proposed technical standards will force them to design schools using mechanical ventilation rather than natural ventilation, which increases the risk of acquiring the disease.

Andrew Keelin, director of M&E services with engineering company Whitbybird, said ODPM regulations governing the levels of carbon dioxide in schools meant that no architect was going to risk designing a naturally ventilated building, in which CO2 levels are variable.

He said: “The only way to ensure we deliver on these new regulations is to design a mechanically ventilated building. We would do this by installing fans and a ductwork system. But if the school doesn’t clean the ductworks properly, bacteria will build up, potentially including legionella.

“It’s an increased burden of maintenance for schools, and nobody can guarantee that it will be carried out in the right way.”

The draft regulations, Building Bulletin 101, which deals with the ventilation of schools, could add up to £1m to the construction cost of a school. Insiders say this could jeopardise the government’s Building Schools for the Future pledge to upgrade every school in the country.

The new regulation was to have come into force on 1 January 2006, the same time as Part L, but has now been put back to April 2006.

Steve Jenkins, operations director with project management company Buro Four, agreed that architects were proposing to use mechanical ventilation in schools because they were afraid of legal action if CO2 levels were exceeded.

Architects are particularly wary of Legionnaires’ disease after a council architect was prosecuted for the manslaughter of seven people after an outbreak at Forum 28 centre in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in 2002.