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Air tightness key to meeting CO2 targets: BRE director

If the UK is to meet ambitious CO2 targets by 2050, “world leading standards” must be adhered to by developers – that’s the view of Lori McElroy, director of housing and energy for Scotland, at the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

In a recent Inside Housing article, McElroy explained the Building Research Establishment wants there to be a “2050-ready” standard in place – both in preparation for building the millions of new homes required in the UK, and to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of those homes.

“This includes updating our energy standards and moving the dial forward on airtightness testing,” writes McElroy.

“Airtightness will play a big part” is ensuring housing developers adopt “best practice” energy standards – and help ensure the UK meets its 80% carbon emission reduction target by 2050.

As McElroy points out, air tightness is a core facet of meeting building regulations Part L (and the equivalent parts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) for low-energy homes.

McElroy is keen that the minimum ratio of homes tested for air tightness is increased, because in the past “developers have been allowed to select which houses are tested”. In essence, a higher ratio of testing should help ensure more properties meet the minimum standards.

Under current rules in England at least 10% of a dwelling type must be tested for air tightness. However if the first five tested units pass the minimum criteria, the sampling frequency goes down to 2%. In Scotland, the sampling rate is 1 in 20.

However, McEloy points out that these sampling frequencies are under review – a fact she and the BRE welcomes.

Private vs social housing

McElroy highlights the fact that UK social housing developments are ahead of private ones in terms of low carbon properties, because “there is little incentive for them to offer more than the minimum standard required by building regulations.”

It is also important that homes do not become too airtight, McElroy says, since this can lead to “poor internal air quality and high CO2 levels” – especially at night.

While McElroy accepts we are in unprecedented times regarding Covid-19, she reminds us of all the benefits air tight homes bring, including:

  • Lower CO2 levels (reduced carbon footprint)
  • Lower energy bills
  • Fewer draughts (homes are more comfortable)
  • Less mould because moisture is unlikely to enter

The future of air tightness testing in the UK

As the UK seeks to meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets, air tightness testing will doubtless play a fundamental role in minimising the carbon footprint of new homes.

Get in touch to learn more about Air Tightness Testing’s services today.

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