Health effects of modern airtight construction

Lead Research Organisation: Glasgow School of Art
Department Name: Mackintosh School of Architecture

Abstract

Awareness of the impacts of climate change, rising energy prices, fuel poverty and a demand for energy security have prompted significant changes in design thinking, construction practice, building materials and building legislation aimed at reducing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. A particular example of this is the fabric first approach and increasing requirements for air-tightness in housing. Whilst this achieves a primary objective of reducing heat loss through ventilation, other requirements for ventilation have not kept pace and there is emerging evidence of poor indoor air quality and inadequate ventilation. This in turn has been linked to a multitude of public health issues, particularly for conditions such as asthma, allergies and COPD that are all known to be exacerbated by poor air quality.

Our goal is to bring public health and building professionals together with architects and their clients to identify shared research questions and develop ways of addressing these issues, with an overall aim of supporting the design of healthy, low energy homes. Despite shared interests between the built environment, environmental health and medical research communities, they are generally not well connected. Indeed there is also very little connection between the housing research and fuel poverty communities as well. The programme therefore aims to bridge the gap between these complementary fields, providing a platform for discussion and collaboration while facilitating knowledge exchange to the built environment industries, such as housing associations and architects. The programme will involve a trans-disciplinary team comprising of academics and industry professionals from the fields of respiratory health, indoor air quality and the built environment.

Planned Impact

The intended audience and beneficiaries of the programme include built environment professionals (architects, ventilation suppliers, Mechanical and Electrical contractors), organisations involved in the delivery of airtight dwellings (Housing Associations, clients, sustainability consultants, government bodies and policy makers), and ultimately the end user (home owners and tenants). Similarly, the programme would be of benefit to organisations interested in public and environmental health (such as public health charities, health care providers, and environmental health officers).

Specifically, anticipated impacts from the planned outcomes include:

1) Advances of building policies and industry standards for ventilation and energy to ensure the protection and enhancement of occupant health in airtight dwellings, through improvements of indoor environmental conditions
2) Improvements in the design process to recognise the health implications of architectural design decisions
3) International development through the involvement of overseas participants and dissemination of results worldwide through an online platform
5) Economic benefits through the hosting of networking activities, engagement from international participants, and the development of funding proposals (UK and European based) at the sandpit event
6) Advancement of the quality of housing provision for both private and social housing sectors
7) Improvements to public health services and associated economic benefits, through advancing knowledge for the prevention and treatment of Building Related Illnesses, such as asthma, allergies and respiratory diseases
8) Enhancement of quality of life through improvements of indoor air quality and thermal comfort
9) Advancement of energy efficient design strategies to reduce carbon emissions and meet the targets set out by the Climate Change Act (2008)
10) Development of professional (management, networking, presentation, collaboration) and academic (methodological, analytical) skills of network participants that can be applied in all employment sectors

It is anticipated that the proposed research network will ultimately help to improve the design of energy efficient buildings, particularly within the residential sector, while enhancing the quality of life of the building occupants, through improved indoor air quality and ventilation provision. In the short term, it is expected to stimulate new collaborative and/or applied research projects through sustained communication and participation of both academic and non-academic participants in the sandpit event, and also explore the development of new products and services to achieve these goals. In addition, the network will help to inform the proposed changes to the Scottish Building Regulations regarding ventilation provision over the coming years, following the consultation in February 2015.

Where possible, the impact of the research network will be monitored. For example, the impact of dissemination activities can be observed through website analytical tools, number of citations and download statistics.
 
Description The funding has facilitated the establishment of an inclusive and active network of researchers and practitioners in the fields of medicine, engineering, microbiology, indoor air science, building physics, architecture and ventilation. The multidisciplinary committee of over 30 members has provided a strong foundation for the network and helped to attract a wide range of participants to the funded network events (Symposium event: 89 participants; Workshop event: 46 participants).

The network has developed strong links with other leading local and international organisations in the field, including the UKIEG, AIVC, ISIAQ, ASBP, ARCC, REHVA, ASHRAE (Scotland), UKCMB, PLEA and The Aerosol Society. In addition to the funded events, the network has supported a range of other events including the Scottish Passivhaus Projects Update (16/05/16, The University of Strathclyde), and the hosting of the annual UK Indoor Environments Group Conference (26/04/17, the Glasgow School of Art); which marks the first time the UKIEG annual conference will be held in Scotland. Activities have resulted in a number of forums at the upcoming international Passive Low Energy Architecture (PLEA) Conference (Edinburgh, 3-5th July 2017), including a new forum on 'Indoor Air Quality and Health'.

The development of an online platform has facilitated the promotion of networking activities, increased awareness of the network and helped disseminate outcomes to an international audience. Since development, the platform has received over 1,000 visitors (>3,600 views) from all over the world.

The involvement of industry professionals (ventilation suppliers, housing associations, architects, clinicians and consultants) and policy makers (Scottish Building Standards Division) has helped to increase awareness and knowledge of the health effects of modern airtight construction and facilitated the transfer and exchange of knowledge between research and practice.




The funding has facilitated the establishment of an inclusive and active network of researchers and practitioners in the fields of medicine, engineering, microbiology, indoor air science, building physics, architecture and ventilation. The multidisciplinary committee of over 30 members has provided a strong foundation for the network and helped to attract a wide range of participants to the funded network events (Symposium event: 89 participants; Workshop event: 46 participants).

The network has developed strong links with other leading local and international organisations in the field, including the UKIEG, AIVC, ISIAQ, ASBP, ARCC, REHVA, ASHRAE (Scotland), UKCMB, PLEA and The Aerosol Society. In addition to the funded events, the network has supported a range of other events including the Scottish Passivhaus Projects Update (16/05/16, The University of Strathclyde), and the hosting of the annual UK Indoor Environments Group Conference (26/04/17, the Glasgow School of Art); which marks the first time the UKIEG annual conference will be held in Scotland. Activities have resulted in a number of forums at the upcoming international Passive Low Energy Architecture (PLEA) Conference (Edinburgh, 3-5th July 2017), including a new forum on 'Indoor Air Quality and Health'.

The development of an online platform has facilitated the promotion of networking activities, increased awareness of the network and helped disseminate outcomes to an international audience. Since development, the platform has received over 1,000 visitors (>3,600 views) from all over the world.

The involvement of industry professionals (ventilation suppliers, housing associations, architects, clinicians and consultants) and policy makers (Scottish Building Standards Division) has helped to increase awareness and knowledge of the health effects of modern airtight construction and facilitated the transfer and exchange of knowledge between research and practice.

The funded network events have assisted in mapping the research context, identifying current gaps in knowledge and outlining a number of key research priorities. This has already resulted in several multidisciplinary funding applications (2x AHRC, 1x Dunhill Medical Trust and 1x Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland applications).

The Information gathered from the network is feeding into a range of policy and advisory groups. These include evidence given to the All Party Parliamentary Group 'Health Homes and Buildings'; participation in a newly formed National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE) Public Health Committee in Indoor Air Quality; and participation in the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings, and the Ventilation and Air Tightness sub-group.

The findings have been able to evidence the issues of poor ventilation and associations with health and this is now having significant influence on policy and regulation.
Exploitation Route The findings will be taken forward through several submitted funding applications, as detailed below.

i) A pilot investigation into relationships between ventilation and health status of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in contemporary airtight homes

Although the effects of outdoor air pollution on COPD are well established, the effects of indoor air pollution on COPD, especially in the elderly, remain unknown. The proposed study would be the initial step in investigating for the first time whether modern airtight housing adversely affects the respiratory health of elderly people with COPD, with the aim of identifying whether practical changes to the indoor environment reduces ill-health and improves quality of life for elderly people with COPD.

ii) Influence of ventilation design on the prevalence of anti-microbial bacteria in homes

This funded study is bringing together architectural design, ventilation engineering and microbiology expertise to evaluate how design may influence the presence of AMR microorganisms in homes. While ventilation has been identified as a primary driver in the structure of the microbial community in buildings, the precise impact of ventilation type, effectiveness and operation warrants further investigation. This study aims to examine whether reduced ventilation rates lead to a higher persistence of resistant microorganisms, and to explore both design and lifestyle to assess potential reasons why this might be the case.

iii) Knowledge generated by the network is being fed into the NICE Public Health Committee on Indoor Air Quality which will result in recommendations for housing across the UK. It has also informed the APPG on Homes and Health which may lead to further legislation in this area.

iv) Dissemination through public and industry events, CPD events and media distribution has increased awareness of the issue for the public, designers and policymakers.
Sectors Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL http://www.hemacnetwork.com
 
Description The findings from this award have contributed to societal benefits, through raising awareness of the potential health effects of indoor air pollution among the built environment professions. This was achieved through the following activities: 1. HEMAC Symposium event (21/09/17), which attracted a large number of participants from academia, industry and the public sector. The symposium included presentations from 10 invited speakers and a discussion session which helped to stimulate debate and intellectual exchange. 2. HEMAC Workshop event (30/11/16), which facilitated knowledge exchange, multidisciplinary dialogue and dissemination of information. The event included 9 different workshop sessions, on topics including 'Guidance for Design and Construction Professionals', 'Microorganisms in homes', and 'Intervention studies for susceptible groups'. 3. Workshop held at the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) headquarters in London (09/11/16) on 'Build Tight Ventilate Right in the 21st Century' 4. Social media outlets, including Twitter (@HEMAC_Network : 176 followers to date) 5. Article published by Committee Member Tom Woolley in the Architects Journal on 'Hazardous Building Materials are part of the airtightness problem' 6. Invited lecture by Prof Jan Sundell to Stage Two Architecture Students at GSA, while visiting Glasgow to attend the HEMAC workshop event (29/11/16). The network has assisted in the advancement of quality of life and health, through involvement in the development of guidelines on Indoor Air Quality and Healthy Homes: 1. Evidence provided by PI to APPG for Healthy Homes and Buildings 2. Registered Stakeholder for NICE Guideline Consultation on Indoor Air Pollution 3. Topic Expert, NICE Public Health Advisory Committee on Indoor Air Quality 4. Member UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings and chair of Ventilation sub-group 5. Participation in the RRoyal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) working group The Effects of Indoor Air on Children's Health Across the Lifecourse 6. Member of the British Standards Institute (BSi) retrofit working group, Air Tightness and Ventilation The network has helped foster economic benefits and international development, through: 1. The hosting of network activities and events 2. Involvement of overseas participants from China, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. 3. The stimulation of new collaborative research project proposals 4. Development of an Elective on 'Indoor Air Quality' (based on findings from the HEMAC network) to be delivered as part of the new Part-time MSc in Environmental Architecture 5. There has been a range of industry talks and CPD presentations which have drawn on the findings and activity of the network
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Development of course material, as part of new MSc in Environmental Architecture
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Evidence Provided to All-Party Parliamentary Group on Healthy Homes and Buildings- December 2016
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/170106/healthy-homes-and-buildings.htm
 
Description Registered stakeholder to NICE Guideline Consultation on Indoor Air Pollution (provided comments on Draft Scope)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-ng10022
 
Description Selected to participate in UK-China AMR Workshop, Shanghai, November 2017
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description The Effects of Indoor Air on Children's Health Across the Lifecourse Working Group
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Topic Expert, National Institute for Clinical Excellence Public Health Advisory Committee on Indoor Air Quality
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description • Presented evidence in the House of Commons at the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings round table evidence session (21/11/2017) on 'How to Improve the Evidence Case for Healthy Homes and Buildings'
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description AMR Indoor and Built Environment Pump Priming
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R00207X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2019
 
Description Health Effects of Modern Airtight Construction: Follow-on funding
Amount £68,220 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S010467/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2020
 
Description Leadership Development Fund
Amount £8,200 (GBP)
Organisation Glasgow School of Art 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 07/2018
 
Description Patient and Public Involvement Bursary
Amount £420 (GBP)
Organisation Asthma UK 
Department Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2018
 
Description Collaboration with the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Invited to join the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings, Co-chair of the Ventilation sub-group
Collaborator Contribution The UKCMB is an independent, not for profit, public good organisation run by University College London, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Heriot Watt University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The UKCMB works in a rigorous and transparent manner together with partners from academia, government, industry and the public to substantially improve the way moisture risk is understood and managed in the UK. Prof. Sharpe has been invited to become part of the Centre and is co-chair of the Ventilation Sub-group
Impact The Centre is currently developing project proposals and funding bids.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with the UK Indoor Environments Group (UKIEG) 
Organisation UK Indoor Environments Group
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team hosted the annual UKIEG 2017 Conference at the Glasgow School of Art on 26th April 2017, which coincided with the HEMAC network event (25th April). One of the research team members (McGill) was subsequently elected as UKIEG committee member.
Collaborator Contribution Support from the UKIEG Committee helped to promote the HEMAC events and attract high profile speakers and participants.
Impact i) Hosting of UKIEG annual conference (26th April 2017), ii) Elected as UKIEG committee member
Start Year 2017
 
Description A workshop at the Royal Institution of British Architects Guerrilla Tactics Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited CPD workshop session at the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) headquarters in London (09/11/16) on 'Build Tight Ventilate Right in the 21st Century', as part of the Guerrilla Tactics Event.

The CPD day was targeted at architectural practitioners offering a full day of 25 seminars covering all ten RIBA Core Curriculum topics. The invited workshop was part of the RIBA Core Curriculum on 'Climate: Sustainable Architecture'. The workshop event was RIBA CPD Certified.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2016
URL https://www.architecture.com/WhatsOn/November2016/GuerrillaTactics2016.aspx
 
Description BBC coverage of health effects of ventilation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Recorded piece of health effects of modern homes, followed by live interview on BBC Breakfast 26 April 2017. Wider dissemination to a range of new outlets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36134213
 
Description CPD events 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to Maccreanor Leavington Architects, London 18th Jan 2018. Building tight - ventilating right? Changing standards have led to the design of more thermally efficient and airtight housing, but have our approaches to ventilation kept pace? Are there gaps between design expectation and actual performance? This talk will present results from a range of studies that that have invested issues of ventilation and indoor air quality in contemporary housing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Engaging Parliaments with Research Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Selection of McGill, G in Engaging Parliaments with Research Workshop, part of AHRC GCRF-focussed "Mobilising Global Voices 2019" International Development Conference, Houses of Parliament, Friday 1st March [funded by AHRC]
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Ventilation design on the prevalence of anti-microbial bacteria in homes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project featured on AHRC website.
Investigating how housing design affects the indoor microbiome, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and the consequent impact on occupants' health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ahrc.ukri.org/research/readwatchlisten/features/ventilation-design-on-the-prevalence-of-anti...