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, it is not clear if the requirements for healthy ventilation have kept pace and there is emerging evidence of poor indoor air quality and inadequate ventilation. Poor ventilation in buildings has been linked to a multitude of public health issues, particularly for conditions such as asthma and COPD that are all known to be exacerbated by poor air quality.
The goal of the network 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 network 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.