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Joe Bradbury looks at how wellbeing can be affected by indoor air quality

The average British person spends 22 hours a day inside… or around 90% of their overall day.

The reasons cited for this are many, from adverse weather conditions to work commitments.

Developing technology is partly to blame, with TV’s, smart devices and consoles proving too addictive for many to peel themselves away from for prolonged periods of time.

But technology is also part of the solution, transforming the great indoors into a healthy environment in which we can thrive.

Everyone is at risk from indoor air pollution

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Editor of Housing Association magazine

Get outside

On a typical weekday the average Brit spends just 8-10% of their time outside (less than two hours) and most of this is spent moving from one building to another on foot or by car. Unfortunately, this is also true of our children too; 36% of parents think their kids are not spending enough time outside, whilst 1 in 6 are uncertain themselves of how much time outdoors is actually sufficient.

According to studies over half of parents worry that their young ones are spending significantly less time out than they themselves did when they were children, indicating an overall shift in behaviour as a society.

Whilst it is critically important that we all get outside as much as we can and appreciate nature in all its splendour, it is also vital that our technology moves with the times to ensure the indoor environments we inhabit are not taking a toll on our health and wellbeing.

Good indoor air quality is essential

Sat comfortably inside our homes, offices and schools we pay little mind to the invisible threats posed by poor quality air. But those harmful gases, chemicals, toxins and pollutants that we unwittingly breathe are responsible for many of the migraines, skin and eye irritations, allergic reactions and general tiredness that plague us all from time to time.

Poor indoor air quality in UK homes is at a scale and magnitude that needs immediate national-level attention and action.

Both built environment and medical professionals recently came together to highlight the true danger of poor IAQ, which alarmingly is responsible for around 40,000 deaths throughout Britain each year. The Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, BRE and the ARCC network released a report revealing the lack of robust, longitudinal, shared Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) profiles, associated health consequences and datasets across the national housing stock.

Recommendations included revising building regulations and reducing pollutant emissions from construction materials and home improvement products.

The report also called for nationwide monitoring and pooling of data required for outdoor and indoor air pollution including encouraging widespread installation of real time sensors that detect indoor pollutants.

On average, 3 people a day die from asthma. There are 5.4 million people (1.1 million children and 4.3 million adults) in Great Britain known to be suffering from the condition… and they are just the ones that came forward for treatment. An untold number battle through their symptoms undiagnosed. The UK has some of the highest asthma rates in Europe. Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.

Indoor air quality is essential in the treatment and prevention of Asthma, along with many other respiratory conditions.

The technology that allows us all to breathe easy

You may have already come across devices aimed at improving IAQ, such as air filters and heat recovery ventilation, but for those who haven’t, allow me to explain how they work:

MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) provides fresh filtered air into a building whilst retaining most of the energy that has already been used in heating the building. Heat Recovery Ventilation is the solution to the ventilation needs of energy efficient buildings.

Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR), heat recovery ventilation (HRV) or Comfort ventilation are all names for the same thing. A heat recovery ventilation system properly fitted into a house provides a constant supply of fresh filtered air, maintaining the air quality whilst being practically imperceptible.

An airtight building with effective filtration and ventilation is proven to reduce particle penetration by 78%.

In summary

Everyone is at risk from indoor air pollution. As an industry, we have the power to ensure the safety of the users and occupants of buildings nationwide.

We still have a way to go, but Britain is taking valiant steps towards a sustainable and healthy future and addressing the pressing issue of poor indoor air quality across the country is paramount.

Joe Bradbury is editor of Housing Association magazine