Energy efficient homes have become one of the key focus points within building regulations, due to the Governments’ targets to reduce CO2. However, these green buildings could be increasing health risks through poor indoor air quality. But, is standard ventilation too reliant on the end-user to ensure adequate air quality? Here, James Harding, category manager at Newey & Eyre, discusses the importance of homeowner education when it comes to specifying ventilation
A recent study by Professor Awbi at the University of Reading found that the increased air tightness within new build properties could lead to significant health risks in future. The study demonstrated a link between inadequate ventilation and indoor air pollution, as many occupants in new build properties are closing trickle vents, keeping windows shut and failing to turn on extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
According to BRE, people in Europe spend at least 90 percent of their time indoors. However, most residents are unaware of the harmful pollutants within their homes, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) formaldehyde and nitric oxide, which are typically released through cleaning products and chemicals in furniture, insulation, cooking and external air. This means many face significant exposure to by harmful chemicals if adequate ventilation is not provided.
The problem, in part, lies in the fact that, although ventilation is something that is specified within the Building Regulations Part F and Part L, the stated air-tightness of 5m3/(h. m2) is generally being exceeded by developers in a bid to make the buildings more energy efficient. This increase in air tightness could lead to health risks if appropriate ventilation isn’t installed as part of the retrofit or new-build and, crucially, if the end user is not properly educated about how to use the ventilation fitted.
A large focus in new build constructions is the energy performance of a building, which is measured via a SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure). A study by Exeter University undertaken on 944 social houses in Cornwall found that a SAP rating of 70+ carried an increased risk of occupants developing asthma and that one single SAP unit increase is associated with a 2-3 per cent increase in asthma symptoms.
However, many installers are still opting for the standard 4" or 6" fans, and despite these being a perfectly adequate solution for extracting polluted air from kitchens and bathrooms, they rely heavily on the end user being fully aware of how/when to operate them in order for them to function effectively. Even when fans are run on timers, which most typically run in-sync with lights, the operation of these units is again reliant upon the users.
An alternative is to install a continuous running system, such as the Newlec Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) kit, which provides whole house ventilation in one system while also reducing the need for user operation.
Other solutions include continual running axial fans, which are designed to work within a homes’ natural heat loss, meaning no unnecessary heat is lost from the building. The Newlec continuous running axial fan is of the most energy efficient options on the market and it has been proven to reduce condensation and prevent mould and damp.
The movement towards increased energy performance in modern buildings has brought improvements that have led to reduced energy bills and carbon emissions benefits. However, to sustain this level of progress, adequate consideration must be also given to ventilation solutions to safeguard the health of occupants in the long-term.
For more information, check out www.neweyandeyre.co.uk, call 0800 783 6909 or visit your local branch. To find your nearest branch and opening times, download the new Rexel UK branch locator app (available on Apple, Android and Windows devices).