As a leading UK air tightness testing firm, we understand the importance of delivering truly energy efficient homes. Minimising air permeability pays real dividends for household finances and of course, the environment.
But as critical as air tightness testing is, we shouldn’t neglect its apparent opposite: ventilation.
It may seem odd for an air tightness firm to talk about ventilation, but here at Air Tightness Testing Ltd., our aim is to support the construction of homes that are as liveable as possible – and that requires good ventilation as well as low air permeability.
But some modern buildings are so energy efficient that ventilation suffers. Poor ventilation systems – which might lead to “sick building syndrome” – can trigger in occupiers “headaches, allergies, reduced productivity, a sore throat and dry skin“, as well as asthma.
Poor ventilation can also lead to carbon monoxide build up – following the incomplete combustion of carbon fuels in gas boilers, for instance.
While there is rightly a heavy focus on air tightness, sometimes this can come at the expense of ventilation, as demonstrated by a study for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), in which 55 monitored air tight homes failed the minimum ventilation requirements laid out in Approved Document F (ADF) – Means of Ventilation under 2010 revisions to the Building Regulations. Just two buildings met the standards.
It is not uncommon for an energy efficient home occupier to turn off existing ventilation systems because they are too noisy; the more energy efficient a property, the harder a ventilation system has to work.
Good communication between architects and mechanical and engineering (M&E) consultants is arguably a key route to better ventilation. The role of Building Control – and how they deal with developers who struggle to meet ventilation standards – is also important.
Another issue – one particular to the UK – is that the buck does not stop with the architect; there is a division of labour between heating engineers, plumbers, electricians and others, with Building Control being handed responsibility of checking installation standards. In the US, Germany and other countries, the architect has considerably more liability.
Encouragingly, there are signs that ventilation is beginning to be taken as seriously as air tightness. After all, air quality is just as important as low energy bills and green credentials. Rather than being viewed as opposites, air tightness and ventilation must be delivered alongside each other.
Here at Air Tightness Testing Limited we have a great deal of experience working with all stakeholders in a development, with a view to delivering quality housing to the sale or rental markets.
We are registered with iATS (Independent AirTightness Testing Scheme) and use equipment calibrated by UKAS laboratories. Our testing procedures are also recognised by UKAS.