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Healthy Homes Barometer 

The Healthy Homes Barometer is an annual research-based report that takes the pulse of Europe's building stock. Since 2015, the reports have demonstrated just how important our buildings are to achieving healthier living conditions, while also addressing the vast challenge of their energy consumption, which represent 40 percent of the energy used in Europe. These barometers highlight the importance of improving buildings to address health and climate concerns across populations.

Individuals, societies and the planet can all benefit from better buildings. UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 focuses on Sustainable Cities and Communities, and the Healthy Homes Barometers demonstrate how such buildings can help in achieving this goal.

The majority of the world’s population lives in buildings in cities and their suburbs, and Europe is no exception. Europe’s buildings are, on average, old, inefficient, and not particularly healthy. The Healthy Homes Barometers examine different types of buildings and their deficiencies in a range of settings to establish how to best target renovation efforts and improve building legislation. The ultimate goal is to boost the renovation rate and reap the rewards of a healthy, efficient building stock. The payoff is better indoor climates that safeguard the health of individuals exposed to them, plus improved energy efficiency and thereby a minimal impact on the climate.

Healthy Homes Barometer 2019

Growing up in (un)healthy buildings

Since our first Barometer in 2015, our ambition has been to work with accredited research partners to examine how the European building stock can be improved to the benefit of people, society and the planet. This fifth edition of the Barometer takes these findings a step further and turns its attention to some of the most vulnerable members of our society – our children. An alarming 26 million – or 1 out of 3 - children in Europe live in unhealthy homes, with deficiencies like dampness or mould, darkness, excess noise and cold. If exposed to all four factors, children are four times more likely to suffer from poor health and their learning is negatively impacted.

Key findings

  • 1 out of 3 European children, or 26 million, live in unhealthy buildings
  • Children living with four risk factors (dampness or mould, darkness, noise and cold) are 4.2 times more likely to report poor health
  • European children could miss up to two million days in school each year because of health problems related to buildings with deficiencies
  • Improved air quality can boost student performance (task solving) by up to 15% 

Educational impact 
Children are not only experiencing health issues due to poor indoor climates; they are also losing out on their education. The conditions that are linked to living in unhealthy homes are responsible for up to two million missed school days. On average, this means about 2.5 missed school days per sick child per year because of illnesses associated with an unhealthy indoor climate.

Healthier homes and schools for healthier economies 
Improving ventilation in schools and reducing exposure to dampness or mould in Europe’s homes will not only benefit children’s health, it could also boost the European economy cumulatively by more than EUR 300 billion by 2060. On top of that, there can be additional economic advantages to reducing noise exposure, increasing daylight access and improving indoor temperature. In short, there is potential for a substantial boost to the European economy by solving the building deficiencies that harm our children’s health.

Suburban and low-income disadvantages 
It is not only children living in urban homes who are at most risk. Suburban areas are also affected, with single family homes especially vulnerable to health effects associated with having a poor indoor climate. This is particularly concerning as suburban growth in Europe has significantly outpaced urban growth, with urbanisation up 30% and suburban growth up 47% from 1961-2011. Furthermore, children from low-income families are more likely to suffer health risks, with those in the lower 20% on the household income scale being nearly 25% more likely to live in homes with deficiencies.