All homes need adequate ventilation and incorporating mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) into your house-building project could provide the perfect solution.
According to a recent Parliamentary briefing report on self-build and custom build housing, around 7-10% of new houses in the UK are self-builds. This is lower than in many other European countries, yet a survey commissioned by the Building Societies Association (BSA) found that more than half (53%) of people in the UK would consider building their own home given the opportunity.
Whether you are building professionally or planning a major renovation or self-build, there is much to consider. However, the opportunity is already there for many people. As long as you think about what you are doing, employ the right tradespeople to build the structure properly, and commission and install vital elements like the ventilation system, there is no reason why you can’t be among the 12,000 or so people taking on a self-build project each year.
Whatever type of house you are building, there are building regulations that you must comply with. Some relate to energy-efficiency and air-tightness in the home. Others deal with ventilation and require a minimum amount of air flow, or air exchange, per hour. These two requirements can sometimes be at odds. The more air-tight your building, the less air can circulate naturally, so mechanical ventilation options are often needed.
It’s not just about complying with regulations. Good ventilation is a must for a healthy living environment, as it can help avoid problems with damp and poor air quality.
One study found that more than a third (38%) of renters had suffered damp problems, but damp can be a problem whether you rent or own your own home. Condensation is one of the most common causes of damp in the UK and can lead to black mould and several health issues. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that people living in damp environments “are at increased risk of respiratory symptoms, respiratory infections and exacerbation of asthma”.
Even without damp, poor air quality can also be detrimental. Professor Hazim Awbi, professor of the built environment at Reading University’s school of construction management and engineering said, "Poor indoor air quality is connected with a range of undesirable health effects, such as allergic and asthma symptoms, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airborne respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease.”
“With the expected increase in airtightness for UK dwellings, it is anticipated that indoor air quality will generally become poorer, resulting in an increase in the number of cases of health symptoms related to poorer indoor environment quality.”
Natural or uncontrolled ventilation is a simple and traditional solution. It allows air to come in via openings like air bricks and trickle vents, but might not be suitable or adequate for modern, relatively air-tight buildings.
Mechanical ventilation systems give airflow a helping hand and are much more efficient. There are different options, but a whole-house mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery offers a complete solution. It draws stale, moist air out of rooms such bathrooms and kitchens and passes it through a heat exchange. Heat is drawn out of the air before it is expelled into the atmosphere.
At the same time, fresh air is drawn into the house, filtered for impurities and passed through the exchange, picking up much of the heat from the outgoing air. This ensures a constant flow of fresh, clean air throughout the house, and can also make your house more energy-efficient by recycling the heat.
Experienced installers can add an MVHR system into an existing building but if you are engaged in a house-building project, it makes sense to include it in your design from the start. This can allow you to select the best ducting solution and build it into and around the other vital plumbing and electrical systems.
Commissioning and installing a high-quality ventilation system is an important consideration for any house-building project. It can improve energy-efficiency while ensuring a constant supply of fresh, clean air, making your new home warmer and healthier.
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