80 million Europeans are currently living in damp and unhealthy buildings. These were the main findings in a study by the German research institute Fraunhofer-Institut für Bauphysik IBP mapping the effects of indoor climate on residents and society at large.
The study revealed that the risk of contracting infections or chronic diseases like asthma is twice as high when living in damp and moldy conditions compared to living in healthy homes. Long term, this can be costly to society as Europe spends 17 billion euros each year on asthma treatment alone.
“The time is right for a paradigm shift in the way we design and organise buildings. What we need is new building designs to tackle these challenges, with a move away from energy-intensive and unhealthy buildings towards buildings which support human health and well-being,” says Ulrich Bang, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainability at the VELUX Group.
Energy efficiency and health must be combined
Modernisation and renovation of buildings to more healthy standards, thus represent an untapped potential for societal savings and a better life for individuals. So, why not combine the need for healthier homes with the need to increase the energy efficiency of existing buildings?
“It is unfortunate that, for the last few years, the public discourse about low-energy buildings has mainly focused on their environmental benefits, and mostly left out the occupants, their needs and concerns." Moritz Fedkenheuer and Bernd Wegener, D/A Magazine no. 23
Buildings that promote health and well-being while offering high energy efficiency and sustainable life cycles can be built by using solutions available today.
The VELUX Group’s 26 model homes, built or renovated in 12 countries with differing climatic conditions, prove that it is possible to take buildings to the next level, shifting away from energy-intensive buildings towards active houses.
“There is evidence that the houses have significantly increased the residents’ health and wellbeing and that they even have the potential to alleviate chronic diseases”, says social scientist M.A. Moritz Fedkenheuer who has evaluated VELUX Model Homes (page 16 in http://www.velux.com/ar-DZ/Documents/PDF/V14417-001-004-002_Model-Home_brochure%202015_interaktiv.pdf)
“While we’ve been here, we haven’t had the colds and coughs we ususally had before. I think it has to do with the air quality and the daylight,” say the Glazebrook Family who have lived in a VELUX Model Home in the UK, setting the standards for how homes can be designed in the future and with solutions available in the market today.