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Healthy buildings not achievable without industry-wide change

New research from Uponor found that the creation of truly healthy buildings is not possible without significant compromise, due to the challenges currently faced by the construction sector.

In a survey of over 200 construction industry professionals, 95% of respondents said that the M&E sector is unable to deliver healthy high-rise buildings without overcoming significant challenges. The research, which is detailed in the new whitepaper ‘High-Rise and Net-Zero Buildings of Tomorrow: Is the Construction Industry Ready?’, shows that these challenges include compromises to reduce costs and speed up construction often leading to a lower standard of end user well-being.

The impact the buildings we live and work in have on our health is more relevant than ever, with many people spending prolonged periods of time indoors coupled with an increased awareness of how intelligent building design can help minimise the spread of germs.

The research supports this, with 90% of those surveyed agreeing that the built environment plays an important role in our everyday well-being. M&E systems were recognised as especially crucial, with the most important systems identified as being:

· Ventilation (77.5%)

· Water supply (47.5%)

· Temperature (43.5%)

However, despite almost half of those questioned citing temperature control as an important factor in creating a healthy building, 20% admitted that they would compromise on this if cost was an issue.

In addition, it was revealed that square footage of rentable/sellable areas are sometimes increased to the detriment of M&E systems. Examples of this include ventilation air filters being blocked due to limited space, meaning that they cannot be properly maintained or replaced. Similarly, radiant heating systems are often side-lined for fan-coil units and radiator systems, despite studies showing the benefits of radiant heating in efficiency, providing thermal comfort, not to mention space benefits.

In support of Uponor’s research, the issue of building standards affecting health and well-being was also raised by a recent report into today’s housing which revealed that current regulations risk creating lower quality homes. This is an issue which could be exacerbated by the UK government’s recent building planning reforms, which are designed to speed up the pace of construction, a decision which has been criticised by professional bodies including the Royal Institute of British Architects.

James Griffiths, project development director at Uponor, said: “Uponor has a lot of experience supplying water systems for high-rise residential facilities, where the scale and complexity of the structure means there are a lot of factors which need to be considered to ensure that the water network will optimise the health and well-being of residents.

“Making compromises to M&E systems such as the heating and water delivery might lower initial costs, but we need to think about the long-term suitability of the buildings we’re creating, particularly in the current climate. Cutting corners in order to build quicker or cheaper risks significantly lowering building quality and making it even harder for construction industry professionals to design, build and maintain homes that properly support our health and wellbeing.”

As part of its research, Uponor spoke to a number of construction industry experts. Project Architect at AWG Architects, Marjon Van Elk, said: “The M&E aspects of a building are the most important parts to making it healthy, especially by providing the comfort, heating and ventilation, so it is important that it’s done well.”

29 September 2020

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