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AIR CONDITIONING & VENTILATION 21


years, but while this is a demonstrably good thing with regards to the efficiency of heating your home, they seem to have ignored an important element of every building – ventilation. The Victorians knew that it was impor- tant to allow fresh air to replace all of the smoky dampness you would get from boiling a kettle on the fireplace, so Victorian homes were designed to draw stale air up the chimney, with replacement air being drawn in through inherent gaps in the building fabric. Current regulations assume that ventilation technology hasn’t improved since. There have been some changes in the way things are done, of course. We have compensated for less leaky building materials by introducing trickle vents in window frames, and mechanical extractor fans instead of open chimneys for example, but the end result is the same. You must have holes in your property for the specific purpose of letting ‘fresh’ air in, even though the rest of your home needs to be airtight! When you add up the combined ‘free


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area’ of all the trickle vents required to let adequate amounts of air in, you’re looking at a hole typically over one square foot for a small three-bed home – effectively the size of an open window. If you close the trickle vents to stop draughts, your ventila- tion simply doesn’t work. You can’t extract air from an airtight box without the means of replacing the air being extracted. Ventilation is even more important today given indoor and outdoor air quality issues, even if the regulations haven’t advanced much from the 19th century to the 21st. The recent drive to better insulate people’s homes for environmental reasons is all very well, but a lack of forethought and knowledge about ventilation has led to new problems. Insulation might well reduce fossil fuel consumption and with it


CO2 emissions, but ventilation doesn’t, so funding for ventilation hasn’t happened


because it doesn’t help anyone meet CO2 targets. Well-insulated but under-venti- lated homes trap damp, which leads to mould and then poor health. The problem has become common enough for a small industry to spring up to help homeowners gain compensation for having had their home insulated. Insulation providers are becoming the scapegoat when Government policy is to blame. Inadequate ventilation has now been shown to cause more than cosmetic problems for home owners. Black mould has been linked with respiratory problems in children, and recent research in Wrexham and New Zealand has shown that not only could mould exacerbate the


uilding Regulations have pushed people in the UK closer and closer towards airtightness in recent


A BREATH OF FRESH AIR


Eliot Warrington of Solarcrest argues that Building Regulations need to reflect 21st century ventilation.


symptoms of asthma, but it could also be linked to triggering a child’s first attack, meaning that ventilation isn’t only vital for the health of your home.


External pollution can also come into play. Millions of hayfever sufferers in the UK look forward to the summer with a mixture of hope and dread. At the same time the more serious issues of poor air quality and pollu- tion from diesel engines are causing serious health problems, particularly in the cities.


FIXING THE PROBLEM


While Building Regulations might be stuck in the past, the technology


available to fix the problem has progressed significantly. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) is a simple enough concept. It’s a machine which includes a series of ducting pipes that extracts damp air from wet rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms, without wasting the heat that’s in the air. Instead it uses the heat from the stale air to warm fresh air which is being drawn in. Usually situated in an attic or plant room, the MVHR unit will also filter fresh air to remove pollen and dust, with some top-level units even offering filtra- tion powerful enough to remove the tiny


VENTILATION IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TODAY GIVEN INDOOR AND OUTDOOR AIR QUALITY ISSUES, EVEN IF THE REGULATIONS HAVEN’T ADVANCED MUCH FROM THE 19TH CENTURY TO THE 21ST


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