Electrical Contracting News (ECN) August 2016 - Page 38

SPECIAL FEATURE HVAC The Energy related Products (ErP) Directive requires MVHR producers to meet minimum technology requirements. FRESHEN UP Emma Clancy of NICEIC looks at how to breath new life into indoor air quality by improving ventilation systems around the home. I n recent years the need for greater energy efficiency within the built environment has driven the move towards low carbon emitting structures. A far cry from the draughty buildings of yesteryear, modern homes are now designed to retain as much of their heat as possible in order to adhere to energy efficiency legislation. With high energy prices, retaining heat makes sense from an economic as well as an environmental point of view. Indeed, 2014’s amendments to Parts L and F of the Building Regulations tightened up the focus on energy efficiency, and the former included a six per cent uplift in standards for new homes, compared with the 2010 version. It also introduced the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard (FEES), which focuses on the efficiency of the fabric of a new home. ‘There is a drive to deliver a fabricfirst approach to energy efficiency, and this means increased air tightness and insulation,’ says Michael Bates, associate product manager at EltaGroup. ‘The drawback is that the natural infiltration of fresh air is reduced.’ Taking into account that each of us exhales between 10 and 75 litres of carbon dioxide and 175 grammes of water vapour per hour, while a family of four produces between 10 and 15 litres each day through cooking, washing and breathing, it’s no surprise that air quality can deteriorate so quickly. Toxic home syndrome As well as potentially damaging the fabric of the building itself, a lack of proper ventilation can lead to a build-up of contaminants that have a detrimental effect on human health. Peter Howarth, who specialises in allergy and respiratory medicine at Southampton University, has called for increased awareness of what is being termed ‘toxic home syndrome’. ‘This occurs when individuals and families are exposed to a potent mix of airborne pollutants within the home arising from poor ventilation, causing respiratory and skin diseases to occur more frequently,’ he says. His view is backed up by a pan‑European study, carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, which highlighted the impact of indoor allergens and found that exposure is linked to reduced life expectancy and greater likelihood of disease. Over half (57 per cent) of the cases linked to this related to cardiovascular diseases, 23 per cent to lung cancer, 12 per cent to asthma and the remaining eight per cent to other respiratory conditions. Further research by Prism & Waverton Analytics confirms the health risks of poor indoor air quality in no uncertain terms. It found a staggering 91 per cent of homes tested for volatile organic compounds 38 38-39 HVAC – NICEIC.indd 38 18/0 ̌ M L