By December 2, 2015 Read More →

A new study says overhaul ventilation regulation or face worsening health problems

Prof Hazim Awbi from the School of the Built Environment at Reading University is the author of this new study. BEAMA & Prof Hazim Awbi

Prof Hazim Awbi from the School of the Built Environment at Reading University is the author of this new study. BEAMA & Prof Hazim Awbi

A report prepared on behalf of BEAMA claims that poor indoor air quality (IAQ) could cause the number of asthma sufferers to shoot up by 80% if Building Regulations are not tightened. By James Hunt:

It has long been known that poor indoor air quality can cause problems for buildings and their inhabitants alike. Now, a new report claims that not enough is being done to ensure sufficient air exchange and that pollutants are accumulating in homes, causing deteriorating air quality that can only get worse.

This study, entitled ‘The Future of Indoor Air Quality in UK Homes and its Impact on Health’, surveys current knowledge on the effect of indoor air pollution on people’s health and projects how increased levels of energy efficiency and air-tightness of UK dwellings, designed to meet emissions targets, will affect pollution and health up to 2050 if there is no additional IAQ intervention, over and above existing requirements.

Written by one of the UK’s leading indoor air quality experts, Prof Hazim Awbi from the School of the Built Environment at Reading University, this study says that current Building Regulations are not sufficient to tackle the highly adverse effect that indoor air pollution can have on health.

He predicts that without intervention, the UK could see a massive 80% increase in asthma sufferers over the next 35 years. Other worrying key projections include TVOC concentrations up to 60% above WHO 24 hour limits and NO2 concentrations up to 30% above WHO annual limits.

BEAMA’s objective with this report is to encourage the UK government and house builders to introduce and comply with improved legislation and standards for effective and safe ventilation in UK homes.

Building Regulations insufficiently rigorous

The UK Government is committed in law to an 80% carbon reduction by 2050 and to meet this target homes must become more energy efficient and, therefore, more airtight. However, the current Building Regulations, the study says, have not properly considered the adverse impact of improved air tightness on IAQ and the health of occupants.

Part F (Ventilation) covers the requirements with respect to ventilation in the UK Building Regulations, and it regulates ventilation rates, energy requirements and the installation practices of ventilation equipment.

Part F requires greater air tightness in buildings, but without installing adequate ventilation, this reduces air exchange, allowing pollutants to accumulate, and the air quality to worsen. The levels of air permeability are specified and require sample testing, but there is no similar requirement to test air exchange to ensure that it meets levels safest for human health as recommended by the WHO. As energy efficiency measures increase, the situation is expected to significantly deteriorate.

A proven risk – mitigate with MVHRs

Poor indoor air quality is proven to have links to asthma and allergy symptoms, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Awbi says that to avoid such health problems, there should be a requirement of an air exchange rate of 0.5 ac/h. He points out that mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery (MVHR) are key to delivering both healthy indoor air and energy efficiency.

He commented: ‘‘To avoid a serious and significant increase in asthma cases and other health conditions related to poor indoor air quality, homes must be adequately ventilated. In addition to the need for mechanical ventilation systems I also advise that a minimum air exchange rate that new homes must meet is enforced and there is tighter regulation to ensure systems are properly installed, effectively operated and adequately maintained.”

Voltimum UK users can find the report at:

Voltimum UK Manufacturing Partner Vent-Axia designs and makes MVHR units and has been promoting their increased use for precisely these reasons. But a good MVHR can also save a householder money because of its up to 94% energy efficiency. To learn more about Vent-Axia’s MVHRs, go to the links below.

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