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Air conditioning

Q: We recently moved into a newly converted, leased building. Air conditioning was installed in the dispensary and computer server room only. Unfortunately, the nurses' room upstairs faces east and has two windows, and with the high level of insulation, the temperature can reach 33°C before we open in the morning. It then stays at around 30°C for most of the day, even with the windows open. This is causing the nurses, and even some patients who are only in there for a few minutes, significant distress. I am under the impression that this contravenes health and safety regulations. If this is the case, are we required by law to fit air conditioning? If so, is the landlord legally required to fit it for us because without it, the building we are leasing is not fit for purpose?

A: When it is a case of designing new surgery premises, NHS guidance encourages buildings that have natural ventilation and therefore do not need air conditioning.

However, where there are specific reasons, for example, internal rooms with no natural light or where windows must remain closed because they would open on to a public right of way, it is not uncommon for air conditioning to be provided for all or part of a surgery.

You question whether you are legally obliged to fit an air conditioning unit in a room where temperatures regularly reach 30-33° C or if the landlord is legally required to fit air conditioning. I am unaware of any legal requirement or statutory temperature limits, and under a normal commercial lease, fitting air conditioning is unlikely to be a landlord requirement.

If it is essential for the well-being of your patients, the PCT may accept it as a necessity, and either help by way of an improvement grant or allow the district valuer to include it as an improvement that will increase the level of rent reimbursement. If the reimbursement can be increased, it may be possible that in return for extra rent, the landlord will provide the air conditioning unit.

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