EnviroVent's own Sales Director, John Moss looks at how councils are investing in upgrading their housing stock, not only to provide tenants with affordable warmth, but also better indoor air quality.
The English Housing Survey identified that damp continues to be a problem for at least one million homes in England. The statistics show that those living in rented properties, either social housing or private, were most likely to be living with issues with condensation and mould growth. This was found to affect 586,000 households. As is widely known, condensation and mould are produced by activities in the home, such as taking showers and baths, boiling kettles, cooking, drying clothes and breathing. A family of four will generate approximately four pints of water per person a day into the atmosphere, which is equal to over 100 pints of water vapour a week, creating high levels of humidity if this moisture-laden internal air is not ventilated to the outside.
Over the past 20 years, energy efficient upgrades have been carried out to homes, including double glazing and cavity wall and loft insulation, in order to make them more thermally efficient and with lower energy demands. Where this has been done without introducing adequate ventilation, then issues have arisen. As a result, some Councils’ maintenance departments can be over-burdened throughout the colder months with complaints about condensation and mould growth, due to inadequate ventilation.
In homes that have been made more airtight, due to energy efficient upgrades, there can be a lack of fresh air circulating around the house because moisture-laden air remains trapped inside. Without a regular circulation of fresh air into a house, warm air, when it reaches a cooler surface will form water vapour or ‘condensation’, leading to damp appearing on walls and around windows.
Another interesting finding from the English Housing Survey was that the energy efficiency of England’s housing stock has improved significantly. This trend towards greater energy efficiency, whilst it is a positive in terms of warmth and comfort, is one of the main reasons why mechanical ventilation is now needed in homes. Many industry experts have pointed out that requirements for air tightness in new and renovated homes has increased, yet ventilation requirements have remained unchanged for many years.
Regardless of this, many social housing providers are recognising the issue that tenants face and the burden that dealing with condensation and mould growth puts on their maintenance teams. Social housing providers are also aware of how poor ventilation can impact on the health of tenants, by exacerbating existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
One council which has taken direct action to ensure energy efficient upgrades could be carried out in a way that was compatible with ventilation requirements is Birmingham City Council. The council was planning to improve the energy efficiency of four blocks of high rise apartments with new External Wall Insulation, but was aware of condensation and mould issues in the apartments, which were at risk of being exacerbated if this upgrade was carried out. At the same time, the council wanted to take a proactive approach to ventilating the flats to protect the health of residents and the fabric of the building and avoid potentially costly disrepair issues in the future.
The four tower blocks, known as the Boat Blocks, which are owned by Birmingham City Council, consists of 264 apartments in total.
Our ventilation specialists recommended wall-mounted Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems because they eliminate the requirement for multiple extract fans, within the flats in the kitchens and bathrooms, providing highly effective ‘whole house’ ventilation. The EnviroVent wall-mounted units provide fresh, filtered and tempered air into the flats, improving the indoor air quality, reducing condensation and eliminating black mould. This type of unit is extremely versatile and can be installed in various orientations, meaning it could meet the complexities of the Boat Blocks project for the three different layouts of the flats. Our technical team proposed utilising the existing holes drilled into the walls for old, inefficient extractor fans.
The results of the upgrade to these apartments will be increased thermal efficiency of the properties and lower fuel bills for occupants, but also minimal risk of condensation and mould growth, which will protect the fabric of the building for the Council and improve indoor air quality for tenants.
The EnviroVent Wall Mounted Positive Input Ventilation unit used within the project is part of the Lifetime Range® and comes with a renewable 5-year warranty.
The energy consumption of the unit is extremely low, as it is powered by an ultra-low watt DC motor to ensure low running costs for the occupant. The unit also helps to redistribute the warm air that can accumulate at ceiling level and thus reduce the space heating costs within these apartments.
Ventilation systems like these are set to help local authorities to meet the indoor air quality requirements of tenants in the future. Condensation and mould require a long-term ventilation solution, rather than a quick fix, and forward-thinking landlords, such as Birmingham City Council, are leading the way in this. As local authorities continue to focus on reducing energy demands in their properties and minimising CO2 levels, then this is when effective mechanical ventilation systems can bridge the gap.
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