We recently paid a visit to our Passivhaus social housing scheme, Bovemoor Lane / Earnest Johns Mews, which we completed for Exeter City Council 12 months ago.
Passivhaus certified and designed to building biology principles, we took the opportunity to see how people were finding living in their new Passivhaus and healthy homes. The feedback was very positive, and the occupants told us how they loved their new home and how warm and comfortable they were all the time with no heating. At one dwelling we were told that they hardly put the heating on, and another said they had put the heating on only 3 times this winter. In addition, the homes were fresh and well ventilated.
This is great, as it is going a long way to address fuel poverty, especially in the current energy climate where energy prices are doubling putting many into poverty. We reported a few years back that up to 1 million UK families cannot afford to heat their homes. Fuel Poverty: 1 Million UK Families Cannot Afford to Heat their Homes – Gale & Snowden (ecodesign.co.uk)
We do not think that has changed and are left wondering what this is going to look like in years to come with the volatility of energy markets and rising energy prices. The only way to address this is to ensure homes are adequality insulated and ventilated efficiently. This way there is less reliance on energy intensive heating and adequate comfort is maintained. A well-insulated home is a healthy home. When people cannot afford to heat their home, as a consequence they become cold and damp, moulds proliferate increasing air borne biological pollutants, which in turn exasperates lung and respiratory disorders. In addition, in order to reduce fuel bills and maintain comfort levels, windows are not opened in cold weather and air quality inside suffers as a result. We are now spending more and more time indoors up to 90% for a lot of people. In poorly ventilated homes this increases both levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as found in paints, furnishings, and chemicals. It also increases levels of particulate matter (PM) such as dust, dirt, dust mites, soot; all of which are deemed to be detrimental to lung and respiratory health by the World Health organisation.
The cost of these health problems associated with fuel poverty in society are little understood. More importantly as we pointed out in our previous blog ‘A warm and healthy home should be a fundamental right of any family’ as is stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We are now living in a world where viruses are at the forefront of people’s minds and ventilation is seen as a key tool to limit the spread and curb peak infection rates. In order for this tool to be effective fuel poverty and comfort has to be addressed.
The homes at Bovemoor Lane / Earnest Johns Mews address all these issues. In addition, the healthy building design approach, which included vapour permeability and vapour buffering materials such as mineral paints, solid clay wall blocks, natural solid timber products and the specification of nontoxic materials and finishes, also helps improve indoor air quality.
Further details on our low energy social housing schemes can be found here: Work – Gale & Snowden (ecodesign.co.uk)