Suzanne Millward, Vent-Axia’s residential marketing manager, gives an update on the progress of the government’s Decent Homes Standard
IN 2000, government made a 10-year commitment to bring all public sector homes up to a decent standard.
This Decent Homes Standard ensures all social tenants have access to and should expect a minimum standard of housing. Currently, a third of all housing falls below the Decent Homes Standard, equating to 11 million households*.
Most homes surveyed failed on the standard of heating or thermal comfort provided - 23% of all homes in England did not meet this standard and 73% of non-decent homes failed because there was not adequate, effective insulation and heating.
Residential Social Landlords (RSLs) are now facing a number of factors, which are influencing their decisions in what products they need to help them bring their properties up to this decent standard.
New legislation in energy efficiency through Building Regulations F and L are driving RSLs to reconsider what ventilation is required and the best product to achieve this. Vent-Axia has taken a strong lead in supporting RSLs in applying the latest ventilation, heating and air control technology to achieve healthier and more energy efficient homes.
A decent home should be seen as a 'healthy home' because there are several health risks involved in not having a warm and well-ventilated healthy environment, including:
Excess moisture and condensation can cause structural damage. It can seep into the walls and woodwork, causing dry rot.
Other adverse effects of excess humidity include peeling wallpaper, discoloration of paint, musty odours and condensation in walls and on windows. This leads to expensive repairs and maintenance.
Mould is a major cause of health problems. This occurs primarily when there is active mould growth within a home, office or school where people live or work. Persons exposed to high spore levels can become sensitised and develop allergies to the mould. While there is no practical way to eliminate all mould and mould spores in the indoor environment, keeping the home clean and dry certainly prevents extensive mould growth and helps to alleviate conditions such as asthma, which are triggered by this residential exposure to condensation and excess moisture.
Dust mites and allergens
Dust mites grow best in humid conditions, and are so tiny they cannot be seen. They are a normal part of life and every house has them. The dust mites and their droppings build up on sheets, blankets, mattresses and pillows, furniture and rugs, and allergies triggered by mites can cause respiratory problems.
Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality. Ventilation can control indoor humidity and airborne contaminants, both of which either contribute to, or act as health hazards. By reducing excess moisture, installing the correct insulation and properly designed ventilation, better indoor air quality is promoted and health and structural problems are eliminated.
Vent-Axia offers customised ventilation solutions for all local authorities, RSLs, housing associations and ALMOs. There are several solutions that we would recommend:
Humidity controllers are designed for kitchens and bathrooms and combat the problems of excess moisture by maintaining an automatic, condensation controlled healthy environment. Through the use of air quality sensors, timers and humidity detectors, ventilation rates can be minimised, while ensuring high air quality and reducing energy consumption.
Another solution is mechanical heat recovery ventilation (MVHR), which introduces fresh air into the building from the outside, and can help make ventilation more cost effective by reclaiming energy from exhaust airflows. HRVs use heat exchangers to heat or cool incoming fresh air, recapturing up to 90% of the indoor warmth that would otherwise be lost. It not only provides clean fresh air every day but also helps to cut household energy bills for occupiers, promotes respiratory health, is easy to install and protects the environment.
Low energy fans conform to ventilation best practise and are cost effective - energy saving models feature long life motors which last at least twice as long as conventional motors and deliver up to 80% savings on energy bills.
It is worth remembering that in the new Part L document, 'partial heating' of a dwelling is no longer acceptable. RSLs now also need to consider updating the heating of properties. Vent-Axia is synonymous with energy efficiency and supplies a wide range of electrical heating products, that are:
· Energy efficient
· Work on any electrical grid
· Have close control to limit use and eliminate (or prevent) user intervention
The right specification is key to effective electric heating and getting this right means greater efficiency. The electrical heating units from Vent-Axia have special kW ratings so there is no need to oversize the unit to heat a room effectively.
The national emissions targets, the Home Energy Conservation Act and the government energy initiatives have meant social housing has indeed been upgraded from an energy saving perspective with new homes featuring a high standard of insulation and controllable ventilation. With electricity costs now on parity with gas there are added arguments in favour of electric heating. Its simplicity of installation, cleanliness and lower maintenance means electric storage heaters are becoming more commonplace.
Decent homes are an essential part of a sustainable community. A home and its environment have a major impact on the physical and mental health and well-being of those that live there.
In addition, global warming and the consequent drive to reduce CO2 emissions, have inspired a new generation of easily installed, durable energy efficient ventilation and heating energy products.
Although the Decent Homes Standard is the hot topic of the moment, it is important that RSLs do not work towards it in isolation. With changing energy efficiency targets and revisions to part L and F of the Building Regulations due to come into force early next year, there also needs to be consideration of broader environmental goals and recognition of life after 2010.
In the quest to bring houses up to the Decent Homes Standard, heating and ventilation is an integral component which is essential in helping to reach government targets.
*Reference: The English House Condition Survey - key findings for 2003, published in March 2005
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