There are many issues to consider when you are thinking about building your own home but ventilation shouldn’t be an afterthought when planning a self-build.
Every year, more than 13,000 adventurous Brits dive into self-building, according to the Build It magazine website. Self-builders come from all walks of life, including young couples seeking an alternative way onto the housing ladder, families looking for more space, older people who want to downsize, and keen DIY enthusiasts looking for a challenge that they can sink their teeth into. Not every self-build project is on the scale and scope that you may have seen on programmes such as Grand Designs, but they all give the opportunity to build a house to suit you.
Mike Hardwick, a project manager and self-build expert for the National Self Build and Renovation Centre, says, “Developer-built houses are not necessarily poor products – they have to meet Building Regs and clearly people are buying them, but they’re often disappointing places to live.”
There are restrictions, of course. Your building must meet all relevant regulations and, unless you’re lucky enough to have an unlimited spending pot, there will be budgets to consider. In general, though, you can design your self-build to suit your tastes and lifestyle.
It’s not all about how a property looks, though. Increasingly, it’s about how it performs on issues such as energy efficiency and sustainability. Energy efficiency measures can pay for themselves in the long-term by reducing expensive energy bills, but an often-overlooked element of a self-build’s functionality is that of ventilation.
As well as meeting standard building regulations, ventilation is essential for several other reasons.
First, it is the best way to avoid the damp and black mould that condensation can cause. As well as potentially damaging the building and other property, such as soft furnishings, damp and mould are considered to be a health hazard.
The NHS says, “If you have damp and mould you're more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system."
Good ventilation can also help to disperse allergens and impurities in the air, which can trigger asthma attacks or hay fever symptoms. It can disperse potentially harmful build-ups of radon gas, which the World Health Organisation has linked to cancer, and volatile organic compounds, which can be released from cleaning products and other sources.
And of course, good ventilation can help remove odours, keeping your home clean and fresh.
There are many options available when it comes to installing a ventilation system into your self-build. It makes sense to install your system during the build, rather than as an afterthought, or in response to a problem occurring further down the line. A high-quality ventilation system can head off some of the problems outlined above and help to keep your painstakingly-designed and built home a pleasant and healthy environment.when designed and installed correctly, a good ventilation system will also ensure the building meets requirements set out in building regulations.
The right solution will depend on several factors, including your budget, air-tightness of the property, climate, the importance you place on energy efficiency, aesthetics, and noise.
Passive stack ventilation is a simple solution, through the use of vents, that relies on the movement of air via natural convection currents. This is a weather-dependent solution, however, and can lead to under- or over-ventilation. Another relatively cheap and simple option is to place intermittent extractor fans in rooms prone to moisture, like kitchens, bathrooms, and utility rooms.This system would also require a number of trickle vents.
Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) is even more effective, extracting moist air at a low continual rate, with a facility for a higher boost rate extracting it to atmosphere. You can also add a Heat Recovery system, which uses a heat exchanger in the central unit. This can result in extra energy efficiency. Or, you could opt for Positive Input Ventilation (PIV), which draws fresh, filtered air from outside and circulates it through the house, ensuring a constant flow of clean air.
There are many options available but getting the right advice and installing the best system for you at the build-stage can help avoid several issues and make sure that your self-build really is your dream home.
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