Healthier Homes, Healthier Planet – improving green building credentials

In December, the World Green Building Council launched a guide titled “Healthier Homes, Healthier Planet”. This guide is all about how changes can be made, both small scale and larger scale, to create homes that are not only healthier for occupants, but also healthier for the planet.

The World Green Building Council is an agglomeration of national green building councils that work together to come up with ways in which changes can be made within the construction and building industry to benefit the environment and the health of the population. Each green building council is made up of businesses and organisations that work within the construction industry, and there are 70 across the world.

The Healthier Homes, Healthier Planet guide aims to encourage homeowners and members of the construction and building industries to work on bringing elements of green buildings into the home. Buildings and construction account for 36% of global energy use, and 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions, so the industry has a lot of responsibility in regard to working to become more green and environmentally focused.

The guide focuses on 3 key areas of the home, issues they present and ways in which they can be combated.

1.Air quality issues
2.How to improve air quality
3.Thermal and acoustic comfort issues
4.How to improve thermal and acoustic comfort
5.Light issues
6.How to improve lighting in the home


Air Quality

Impact on health

The first issue is of air quality. It is well known and well publicised that air pollution outside of our homes can have adverse health effects, particularly regarding lung disease and respiratory conditions. However, it is important to remember that outdoor air pollution can also infiltrate into our homes, and additionally pollution can come within our homes from traditional biomass coal stoves, and toxic chemicals from cleaning products, furnishings and paints within your home.

Impact on the environment

As well as adverse effects to health, there are environmental impacts arising from air quality issues. Around 45% of global warming can be attributed to “short-lived climate pollutants”, and it has been stated that if we dramatically decreased the use of these pollutants, global warming could be slowed by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Impact on the economy

These health impacts can also result in economic impacts – in 2013, 5.5 million people died due to diseases that are associated with air pollution. These deaths resulted in a $225 billion loss in workforce productivity, and $5 trillion in welfare. Additionally, asthma and pulmonary disease costs 82 billion euros per year across Europe.

How can we improve air quality?

cabrio-velux

There are a number of ways in which air quality can be improved in the home, reducing health issues and environmental impacts, and lessening economic impacts.

Ventilation

One of the easiest ways to improve air quality within the home is to improve ventilation – 52% of poor indoor air quality is due to poor ventilation. This can be as simple as opening windows, to increase air flow and freshness, or even use mechanical ventilation, or hybrid options – natural ventilation can reduce lung-related illnesses by up to 20%.

Renewable energy

To improve outdoor air quality, and lessen your contribution to environmental pollutants, another option is to use green energy to power your home. Why not install solar panels on your home, or switch your energy supplier to one who uses renewable energy?

Vegetation

Another way to improve air quality is to plant vegetation outside your home, or even install a green roof. This will improve air quality immediately outside your home, which will be drawn into your home via good ventilation. Additionally, vegetation absorbs polluting CO2 whilst emitting clean oxygen, helping to reduce environmental impacts. Here at Roofing Superstore we have a range of green roofing systems available, which not only act as an insulator to reduce energy costs, but also improve air quality.


Thermal & Acoustic Comfort

Impact on health

The second key focus of the Healthier Homes, Healthier Planet guide is on thermal and acoustic comfort. Poor insulation and poor construction of buildings is a key contributor to poor health associated with warmth and noise.

Poor insulation can also result in cold, damp environments, which are perfect conditions for mould growth. This can cause a number of respiratory illnesses, as well as asthma and poor mental health. It has been stated that 2.2 million Europeans have asthma which is partly due to their living conditions, and children in the UK whose homes had undergone an energy efficiency upgrade had a 15% reduction in days off school due to respiratory health.

Noise pollution caused by a lack of acoustic insulation can cause stress, high blood pressure, and strokes, whilst chronic exposure to noise can affect children’s cognitive development.

Impact on the environment

Poor thermal comfort can also have environmental impacts. In the USA, 6% of all electricity used goes on air conditioning units, many of which use highly polluting refrigerants which contribute to climate change. In contrast, insulation retrofits on 46 million US homes have been predicted to lower the amount of nitrous oxide emitted by 100,000 tonnes.

Impact on the economy

Energy efficient buildings can help save significantly on energy bills. Insulation retrofits on the 46 million homes were said to save around $5.9 billion, and the American Consumer Reports suggest that sealing leaks within a home can save up to 15% of your energy bills.

How can we improve thermal and acoustic comfort?

triple-roof-terrace

Open windows

One of the most simple steps is to improve airflow and ventilation through the building. This can be as simple as opening windows more often, to allow fresh air to come into the home but there are a number of other options. Why not consider installing windows in your roof? Here at Roofing Superstore we have a number of pitched roof windows and flat roof windows, a number of which that open or have ventilation systems to improve airflow within the home.

Passive ventilation

Another way in which to improve ventilation and airflow is to install passive ventilation systems. These ventilation systems use natural forces such as the wind to regulate the temperature inside the home, without increasing energy costs via air conditioning units.

Green roof

Another way in which to improve thermal comfort is to install a green roof in place of a more traditional roof. Green roofs, also known as sedum roofs, will help to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, reducing energy costs as well as providing a number of ecological benefits. Here at Roofing Superstore we have green roof products from both SkyGarden and Wallbarn, so take a look and find the best green roof for your project today.

Reflective roof paint

Another option to retain thermal comfort is to paint your roof white. This will increase the amount of sunlight reflected by the roof to around 85% as opposed to 20%, which prevents your home from overheating in warmer months. Take a look at our range of solar reflective paint and apply a small change to reap the benefits.

Insulation

Ensuring you have efficient insulation is one of the most important factors when it comes to thermal and acoustic comfort. When the insulation is airtight, no air leakage occurs, meaning no heat escapes, reducing the amount of heating required. Additionally, insulation can be incredibly beneficial in reducing noise levels, as it creates a barrier to stop noise from travelling through.

Blinds and shutters

To reduce overheating, there are a number of different blinds and shutters available. Roller shutters and awnings have been shown to reduce the effect of over heating by 73% and 93%, so they are a great option when looking for ways in which to make small changes to improve the thermal comfort of your home. Roofing Superstore has a number of different blinds and shutters to choose from, for brands such as VELUX and FAKRO.


Light

Impact on health

Maximising the amount of natural light within the home can improve your health as well as saving money and energy consumption. Living in a dark home can worsen your health by 50%, with common illnesses including headaches, insomnia and depression, but can even include breast cancer and suicide. Furthermore, natural light is crucial in regulating sleep patterns of the body, which is often disrupted due to light pollution and technology. Exposure to natural light during the day can result in 46 minutes extra sleep each night.

Impact on the environment

In developed countries, 14% of electricity is used for artificial lighting in homes. Increasing daylight can reduce the use of artificial lighting for up to 20%, which will result in a 20% reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels for energy production. This can have a massive impact on the environment, as by reducing the amount of energy produced will reduce emissions, improving air quality and reducing the speed at which climate change can occur.

Impact on the economy

Increasing the amount of light that enters the home as natural daylight means that less artificial light is required, reducing overall costs of running the home. Additionally, using energy saving bulbs can reduce costs, with studies suggesting that if you switch ten bulbs in your home to energy efficient equivalents, the initial cost will be made back within a year.

How can we improve lighting in the home?

Roof windows

One of the biggest ways in which to increase the amount of natural light within your home is to install roof windows, rooflights or skylights. They are known to double the amount of daylight in comparison with normal windows installed in the façade of the building, and triple that of dormer windows. Here at Roofing Superstore we have a wide range of roof windows for both pitched roofs and flat roofs. Choose from well known and reputable brands such as VELUX and FAKRO, as well as roof lanterns from Atlas and Korniche.

Blinds and shutters

If you already have roof windows, we’d always recommend considering blinds for them. There are a number of different types of blinds and awnings for your window that will help to reduce the glare of the sun without preventing any natural light from entering the room, which prevent the home from overheating and reduce glare.

Smart home products

As technology improves, it is becoming increasingly intertwined with daily routines. A number of VELUX products are now operated by electricity or even solar power, meaning that they can be opened and closed according to your routine, maximising light without wasting energy. Additionally, use smart home sensors to minimise energy wastage by not turning on lights until it gets dark in the evening, or until you walk into the room.


For any questions or queries on ways in which you can improve the green credentials of your home or your latest building project, call our team on 01752 692760 or use the live chat and they will be more than happy to help.

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