Coastline Housing, Carnego Systems and researchers Nick Osborne and Richard Sharpe were recently recognised for their ‘Health and Home’ paper, a study of 4000 households that helped to understand the links between housing, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. The topic was debated on the BBC Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ programme back in February 2015.
The feature began with the statement that “Energy efficient homes could cause Asthma because people aren’t ventilating them properly”. The University of Exeter looked at social housing where energy efficiency improvements had been made and found that tenants were having problems with damp and mould.
Doctor Nick Osborne who did the research on 4000 homes in Cornwall last year, made a very interesting (and potentially quite frightening) observation:
“We found that those that had very highly energy efficient buildings were reporting increased levels of Asthma and that really got us scratching our heads.” How big an increase was it? Asked Robinson, “It was about 50-100% increase in the risk of reporting Asthma”. When prompted for an explanation Nick stated that “it is a play off between heating your home adequately but also, ventilating it adequately at the same time”.
To drive the point home Adam Tillford of the National Energy Foundation added:
“If we make the house a lot more airtight, as we are doing, we then have to provide a dedicated ventilation system or strategy to get rid of those pollutants and bring fresh air in for people.
“The best way to reduce the cost of our energy bills is to use less of it and we can do that by providing better quality well insulated and well ventilated housing.”
So are we actually improving anything without providing adequate ventilation?
The study conducted by Dr Nick Osborne and Richard Sharpe investigated the role of increased energy efficiency, the extent of damp problems and risks to health. In collaboration with Coastline Housing, University of Exeter analysed data from 4,000 homes in Cornwall. The SAP rating of the properties ranged from 24-88. 21% of respondents had doctor diagnosed asthma. 44% of homes had visible mould. The main findings were as follows:
- Adults living in homes with SAP ≥71 had a two-fold increased risk of asthma;
- A unit increase in SAP was associated with a 3% increase in adult asthma