Healthier Homes

// heating and ventilation

A raft of recent research has shown the dangers of air pollution and the importance of good indoor air quality (IAQ). The latest research builds on this and looks at the dangers of particulate matter, especially PM2.5, adding further to the urgency of cleaning up our air. Jenny Smith, Marketing Manager at Vent-Axia, looks at what this means for Housing Associations.

The latest research from the Royal College of Physicians, published in collaboration with Lancet Countdown, has found that 44 UK cities are in breach of recommended World Health Organization guidelines for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers and it is among the air pollutants which has the greatest impact on human health, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. A major contributor to this form of air pollution is diesel-powered vehicles.

High exposure to PM2.5 in early life has a major effect on lung and cognitive development throughout an individual's life and so the report calls for the Government to improve the air we breathe to help ensure that children and adults across the UK are not exposed to such a preventable cause of death and illness.

The research notes the need for national action to tackle air quality. In July the government published its National Air Quality Plan with Local Authorities in England being required to draw up plans to improve air quality. This was followed up with the Autumn Budget announcement of reforms to improve air quality in the UK, including a new Clean Air Fund. This £220 million fund, financed by targeted changes to company car tax and to vehicle excise duty for those buying new diesel cars, will support English local authorities to support people and businesses to adapt as measures to improve air quality are implemented.

A lack of fresh air
However, PM2.5 is not the only potential air quality issue for Housing Associations. In a bid to lower energy bills for tenants, part of social housing refurbishment projects often involves improving the air tightness of properties. But if ventilation is not considered it may result in a home being unable to breathe, with moisture in the air unable to escape. As a result there may be a build-up of water vapour produced by everyday activities such as cooking, showering etc. until condensation occurs. This can then lead to serious health problems caused by the growth of black mould, including respiratory infections, skin irritation and nausea. Condensation can also occur within the fabric of a building causing costly damage.

Currently landlords already have to ensure properties are not in a state of “disrepair” and are obliged to repair heating, gas, water and electricity installations where damaged or broken. But, these obligations do not cover areas such as fire safety, adequate heating and sufficient ventilation. However, under the proposed Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, tenants would have the right to sue landlords who let properties that aren’t “fit for human habitation”.

So how can Housing Associations improve the quality of air being brought into homes to avoid polluting indoor air with PM2.5 and other dangerous particles, as well as avoiding harmful condensation and mould and ensuring properties are “fit for human habitation”?

A positive change
Improving ventilation offers a simple solution to both these issues. Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) is designed to control condensation in social housing properties and offers a highly effective solution to eradicate mould and improve IAQ. The latest types of PIV also offer F7 filters that help to filter out PM2.5.

Operating by drawing in warm, fresh air from the loft, PIV Units, such as the Vent-Axia PoziDry ProTM, filter it through a high capacity, washable filter and gently introduce it into the home via a discreet ceiling mounted diffuser. The diffuser directs the airflow upwards where the incoming drier air mixes with the warm moist air that gathers at ceiling height. The system dilutes the moisture in the air and provides fresh, filtered, tempered air into the home creating a healthy indoor environment and reducing the risk of condensation and mould, benefiting both the occupants and the structure of the building.

For Housing Associations wanting to provide a healthy environment for their residents and avoid harmful PM2.5 particles as well as the risk of condensation and mould, PIV technology is energy efficient, near silent in operation, simple to install and use and offers low running costs. This type of solution is a simple way to provide good IAQ for residents, leading to healthier, happier residents and healthier homes too.

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