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Sun October 25 2020

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Health integral to successful sustainable housing design, says Velux

14 Jul 10 MPs and industry experts are in agreement that, by focussing solely on lowering carbon emissions, many new sustainable homes could inadvertently leave us a legacy of future health problems. The conclusion was drawn at a parliamentary roundtable on the importance of health and wellbeing in sustainable housing design, hosted by VELUX in Westminster earlier this month.

The panel of 15 representatives, which included Martin Horwood MP, David Birkbeck, Chief Executive of Design for Homes and Kevin Brennan, Head of Sustainability at VELUX, was presented with the findings of ‘Designing Houses for Health – A Review’, a new report conducted by Dr Richard Hobday, an expert in sustainability and health in the built environment.

The report suggests that architecture should be designed to have a positive impact on the health of inhabitants and points to the need to ensure that sustainable homes meet the needs and preferences of consumers. Features including windows that open, views of nature and high levels of natural light can all promote health.

Various members of the panel expressed a concern that if health issues are not addressed at building design stage, it will have serious repercussions for future generations, including a continued rise in people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, obesity and Vitamin D deficiency. To avoid this, the panel debated the need for issues of health to be included in building regulations and standards. 

The panel also consented that sustainable housing has unwittingly become a specialist arena and the public’s understanding of the issues surrounding it needs to be improved in order for them to buy in to greener homes and help the country achieve its carbon emissions reduction targets.

Ben Derbyshire, Managing Director of HTA Architects, commented: “What we need is the introduction of a universal ‘at-a-glance’ measure that the public can get a handle on. This would solve the problem of the current host of complicated standards and measures.”

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Kevin Brennan added that for the sustainable housing agenda to flourish, the public has to be able to easily embrace sustainability: “We’ve got to become more generalist, so that everyone is aware of what the UK is trying to achieve and how we are going about it. We also have to continue to build on the quality and affordability of sustainable homes.

He continued: “As part of the VELUX Model Home 2020 project in the UK, we will monitor the indoor environment of two zero carbon homes for 18 months, looking at the impact on people’s health and wellbeing. The homes have been designed with inhabitant health in mind and the findings, we hope, will go some way in informing future design.”

As part of its campaign to spark debate around and contribute to exemplary sustainable housing design, VELUX is extending its CPD offering for architects.

Two new RIBA approved seminars listed in the CPD section of the website and due to go live this month, will be dedicated to 'Realising Sustainable Living'. They will feature two videos that showcase Green Lighthouse, Denmark's first public CO2-neutral building, and Home for Life - the first two buildings to be constructed as part of the Europe-wide VELUX Model Home 2020 project. Model Home 2020 will see a total of six buildings completed in five countries, reflecting the principles of energy efficient design, a high liveability factor and minimum climatic impact.

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