The most recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings saw the second oral evidence session in response to the Green Paper Laying the Foundations for Healthy Homes and Buildings. Within this session of the APPG discussion was based around what needs to be done to achieve a healthier built environment.
This evidence session gave Officers of the Group, MPs and the authors of the Green Paper the opportunity to probe the issues raised in response to the Green Paper consultation. Members and officers of the APPG for Healthy Homes and Buildings invited the following speakers to discuss the health problems derived from unhealthy homes and buildings as well as how to raise Government awareness of the wider cost benefits of creating a healthy built environment.
- Neil May: UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings
- Ian Watson: Building Research Establishment
- Dr Marcella Ucci: UK Indoor Environment Group
- Dr Gráinne McGill: MEARU
- Margaret Hamilton: Arup
- Richard Twinn: UK Green Buildings Council
- Dr Christopher Watson: Academic-Practitioner Partnership
The session began with Chris Yates, managing Director of Johnson and Starley, representing BEAMA. Speaking on behalf of the trade association, Yates stressed the importance of there being an improved focus on indoor air quality within building regulations that currently focus too strongly on energy efficiency. Yates continued to say “Ventilation should be treated as a “controlled service” in the same way that Gas and Electricity is and only installed by members of a CLG registered competent person scheme”
“Ventilation should be treated as a “controlled service” in the same was that Gas and Electricity is and only installed by members of a CLG registered competent person scheme” – Chris Yates, Johnson and Starley
Neil May from the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings began his evidence by drawing attention to the fact that more than a third of buildings suffer from mould and that it should be a more important consideration when discussing healthy homes. Neil went on to emphasize the fact that evidence on mould and dampness in homes lacks much-needed clarity and is often conflicting, setting the organisations stance that moisture risk should be considered in all regulations moving forward with methodologies put in place where measurement is possible.
The Building Research Establishment called for greater control design and personal control when it comes to building regulations. Talking on behalf of the group, Ian Watson discussed how there is currently no regulations for local authorities to review housing conditions periodically, which needs to be changed. Ian placed high importance on the need for minimum space requirements and a Government review of building regulations.
A common suggestion from the panel was the need for a systematic review of homes and buildings in the UK that is well-balanced and independent. This will ensure regulations are a reflection of the current housing market without any conflicting evidence and opinions, a point heavily suggested by Dr Marcella Ucci of the UK Indoor Environment Group, who also explained the need for upskilling and educating the construction industry to implement future regulations effectively. Expanding on this point, Dr Gráinne McGill of MEARU also called for the upskilling of workers across all sectors related to housing and buildings, not solely the construction industry. Dr Gráinne also noted the absence of the mention of personal safety in the Health & Wellbeing outcomes.
A key outcome from evidence given by both MEARU and Margaret Hamilton on behalf of Arup is the requirement for greater focus on over-heating in the homes with specific reference to ventilation. Dr Gráinne addressed the problem that there is currently very little information regarding indoor air pollutants and the overall effects of these on homes and buildings, calling for more evidence to be collected in order to help rectify the differences between design expectations and actual performance of ventilation within the home.
There is currently very little information regarding indoor air pollutants and the overall effects of these on homes and buildings.
Despite the need to ensure new buildings are made in a suitable and healthy way Richard Twinn from the UK Green Buildings Council advises the group to be more conscious of the need for improvements within the existing building stock. Richard also drew the groups attention to the possible cost implications of moving towards a more holistic approach when improving buildings as he commented “Buildings need to be monitored, managed and maintained properly – do we have the models in place to ensure this constant maintenance?”
“Buildings need to be monitored, managed and maintained properly – do we have the models in place to ensure this constant maintenance?” – Richard Twinn, UK Green Buildings Council
The final group giving evidence to the APPG was the Academic-Practitioner Partnership with Dr Christopher Watson speaking. The basis of the evidence revolved around the crucial action needed on the poorest quality homes, cold homes, air quality, damp homes and overcrowding. Dr Christopher suggested a cross-departmental approach in order to go about finding solutions to these complex problems, drawing specific attention to the private rented sector and the longer-term threats to health and well being associated with housing.
This second oral evidence session was successful in helping to drive forward the Green Paper and allow improvements to be made to ensure that it can reach its full potential in greatly changing the current housing regulations, public awareness and general health and safety in all homes and buildings.