Technical newsletters about emerging issues & our latest research

Poor internal air quality in UK homes is having a serious effect on the health of occupiers. This is a direct consequence of more airtight, energy efficient houses with inadequate ventilation. Through good design, both energy efficiency and ventilation can be optimised, providing high quality housing which will benefit health and wellbeing. We are able to advise on successfully balancing these competing requirements and are experienced in preparing Indoor Air Quality Plans for both residential and commercial development.

A recent study by the University of Exeter Medical School [1] has shown that the risk of asthma increases with the energy efficiency of a building, mainly due to a lack of sufficient heating and ventilation. This report comes at a time of uncertainty surrounding housing standards, yet highlights the importance of ensuring that new homes are not only energy efficient, but also provide optimal ventilation rates for good internal air quality. Fresh air should be provided at a sufficient rate to dilute and remove airborne pollutants.

These pollutants can come from a variety of sources, including external contaminants such as traffic and internal contaminants such as building materials, furnishings, cleaning products and damp laundry.

In particular, the passive drying of laundry within homes causes moisture and volatile chemicals from fabric softeners to build up within the air. High moisture levels encourage dust mites and mould growth. [2] This leads to an increased risk of asthma and can also increase the risk of skin conditions such as eczema.

In order to alleviate such health risks, homes should be designed with dedicated, well ventilated, low energy drying spaces such as covered outdoor drying areas, indoor drying cupboards or communal drying facilities.

 

[1] R. A. Sharpe, C. R. Thornton, V. Nikolaou and N. J. Osborne, “Higher energy efficient homes are associated with increased risk of doctor diagnosed asthma in a UK subpopulation,” Environment International, vol. 75, pp. 234-244, 2014. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2014.11.017

[2] R. Menon and C. Porteous, “Design Guide: Healthy Low Energy Home Laundering,” Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit, 2011. http://www.homelaundrystudy.net/