The UK IAQ market is evolving rapidly. The drive to improve insulation characteristics in buildings (especially existing ones) to reduce energy consumption especially following the introduction of the 2008 Climate Change Act (free loft insulation, triple glazed windows near Heathrow), has resulted in a reduction of the quality of indoor air for millions of UK consumers.
This is primarily because properties are built to or retrofitted with minimum compliance standards and in Part F Ventilation, which means System 1 or Natural Background ventilation supported by extraction in wet areas. This is a strategy that generally underperforms and especially so during cold winters, leading to a build up of airborne contaminants such as humidity, allergens, dander, VOCs etc. which can negatively affect people’s health.
In other words, the problem of indoor air is partly a consequence of the drive for improved energy efficiency in homes and there are 26 million existing homes in the UK that are likely to require some form of retrofit improvement over the coming years – a huge challenge on top of ensuring all new builds meet the new requirements. To give you some idea of the consequences of inaction in this area, a 2016 Royal College of Physicians report stated poor indoor air is associated with healthcare costs in the order of “tens of millions of pounds” and in 2015 Professor Hazim B. Awbi predicted that by 2050 there will be an 80% rise in people suffering asthma symptoms without action to tackle indoor air pollution.
We familiar with all the current ventilation strategies of the current Part F regulations. In our experience only those strategies which offer a mechanical background (or whole house) ventilation process can be truly relied upon to deliver a permanent solution to indoor air quality that scales with occupancy/occupant habits. There are only two of these – System 4 (MVHR) is generally confined to the new/self build/PassivHaus space given it is generally not feasible to retrofit MVHR into an existing property – and Positive Input and/or Single Room Heat Recovery Ventilation that falls within the System 5 (Alternates) category and is the most suitable strategy for retrofit.
We are monitoring developments in this space very closely. We are a stakeholder of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings, chaired by Jim Shannon MP and the NICE: Indoor Air at Home initiative. We are also a member of the UK Indoor Environments Group, the Radon Council and the UK Radon Association. In 2019 the Homes for Human Habitation Act was passed into law which gives tenants more power to force landlords to maintain their homes at an appropriate standard which will increase demand for services like ours, especially during winter when visually evident indoor air quality problems such as condensation and mould come to the fore. Further down the line we expect there to be changes to the various Building Regulations which will widen the scope of pollutant monitoring and ventilation response and policing of ventilation performance compliance following the example set by the recommendations of the Hackitt Review to prioritise building maintenance quality over cost efficiency following the Grenfell disaster.
Consumers in the UK are becoming more and more aware of the growing problem of IAQ and the direct effect it has on health and well being.
Indeed, IAQ problems are regularly mentioned in the national media these days. Every existing domestic home in the UK is a potential customer for our market leading retrofit solutions. There are currently approx 26 million domestic properties in England that may require a retrofit solution to improve IAQ and protect the health of the occupants. Of these approx 5 million homes are private rentals and 4 million are social housing. The current trend shows growth in the private rental market and contraction in available social homes with more and more private homes being rented through councils. The UK government has repeatedly tried to address the shortfall in UK housing stock by offering various incentives to the private sector following the 2008 financial crisis and recent claims suggest growth in new housing supply although Brexit has caused the industry to be cautious as economists predict a fall in house prices in the event of a disorderly exit. The UK government currently plans to build 300,000 new homes per year and new regulations relating to IAQ may be applied to these new builds but until changes to current regulations are made that prevent minimum current standards (ineffective natural background and extraction ventilation) the number of occupied properties requiring a retrofit solution will only rise.