Many substantial building problems (including health problems) are caused by excessive or insufficient moisture. And yet we have very little research in the UK on moisture in buildings, a lack of good guidance, and minimal public and industry understanding. The UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings has been set up to address these issues. Dr Marcella Ucci, UCL IEDE will offer an overview of work to date at our event 7th October in Bristol.
Inappropriate moisture levels in buildings are considered to be the cause of the majority of all building failures including building-related occupant health problems. Evidence from research, building owners and occupants, and industry, seem to indicate that such failures and problems may be changing and increasing in some areas due to factors such as increased airtightness and insulation, fuel poverty, overcrowding and changing use of buildings. However, there are many complexities and interactions, as well as much uncertainty in regard to the extent of the problem, its effects and causes.
The understanding of moisture movement and moisture risk in buildings has developed considerably in the past few years, albeit there are still many gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge. Not only have the mechanisms of moisture movement been explored more fully but the types of buildings and applications being studied have widened (in particular the retrofit of existing buildings). At the same time there is a growing acknowledgement of the key role of moisture in the health of occupants as well as in the health of building fabric. Furthermore, the standards to which buildings are constructed and retrofitted are changing (in particular the air permeability of buildings is being reduced and traditional walls are being insulated), to a large extent as a result of changing energy standards in buildings. Building use is also changing, with more sedentary lifestyles and greater moisture production from appliances such as showers and washing machines. The changes in climate over the next century now being predicted (i.e. milder, more humid winters and greater levels of driving rain) will tend to increase moisture problems where they occur.
Government and industry is increasingly aware of these problems, with the consequence that the major standards for moisture in buildings (such as BS5250 and Part C) are currently being revised. Industry groups have commissioned reports on moisture risks in many areas. All of these however are being written in the face of huge uncertainty of methods, and lack of basic data and research.
The UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings (UKCMB) was established with the mission to the development of knowledge and support towards the causes, mechanisms and solutions (where these exist) to moisture problems. It is long overdue, but is now an urgent requirement for this country, its building owners and occupiers, and the construction (and maintenance) industry. The risks of not having such a strong focus on moisture are considerable, with damage to building fabric and occupant health affecting our heritage, resources, natural environment and personal and social wellbeing. There could be, and may already be, costs running into billions of pounds in terms of asset value, repair costs, health costs, and loss of usable facilities. There is also the potential for considerable corporate and even governmental liability, with risks to jobs, investment and policy.
The UKCMB brings together leading experts in the UK to provide an independent, authoritative, world-leading centre for research, education, guidance, training, innovation and policy-engagement in this important subject area.