University of East Anglia
Duration of your PhD
Dr Alan Bond
My Thesis' Abstract
The UK government has set a highly ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (UK Govt, 2008). With greenhouse gas emissions from homes contributing to 27% of the total current emissions, domestic carbon reduction has been the centre of much interest and embedded within key government plans and strategies. A fundamental part of this strategy aims to move the construction industry towards building more sustainable, highly energy-efficient homes. For instance, from 2016, zero-carbon homes are expected to become a legal requirement through the Building Regulation (Zero Carbon Hub, NHBC, 2013). To be able to achieve zero-carbon home standards, buildings must not only have energy efficient heating and cooling systems, but they also need to be highly airtight. Since concentrations of many air pollutants are often higher indoors than outdoors (Adgate et al. 2004; Jurvelin et al. 2001) the required increased airtightness generates immediate concerns over the quality of indoor air and its effects on human health.
Many epidemiological studies have explored the health effects of poor indoor air quality (Franklin, 2007; Foster & Kumar, 2011; Jones, 1999). Some of these have established that inappropriate ventilation rates may result in an increase of indoor pollutants, which are associated with illnesses such as asthma (Heinrich, 2011), lung cancer (Gregory at al. 2012) and a variety of respiratory diseases (Perez-Padilla et al. 2010).
In order to provide an exchange of outdoor and indoor air, airtight homes are often reliant on the use of mechanical ventilation system (with or without heat recovery).
In actual fact, the health of the zero-carbon home occupants will greatly depend on three factors: First, the ability of the mechanical ventilation system to provide good indoor air quality. Second, the occupants’ awareness of the health issues associated with poor indoor air quality. Third, their behaviour regarding the operation and maintenance of the mechanical ventilation system.
Several studies (Dimitroulopoulou, 2012; Aizlewood & Dimitroulopoulou, 2006 & Leech, et al. 2004 ) demonstrate that home occupants generally perceive indoor ventilations as important, but they lack understanding and awareness of the ventilation system in their own home. Furthermore, Bone et al. (2010) concluded that there is insufficient public awareness of the importance of achieving appropriate indoor ventilation rates and further research should be carried out to attain a better understanding of occupants’ knowledge, behaviour and attitude regarding ventilation.
Although there is extensive literature exploring the health effects of poor indoor air quality and the importance of indoor and outdoor air exchange, little is known about home occupants knowledge and behaviours in operating and maintaining mechanical ventilation systems. Furthermore, no research has fully explored the significance for human health of maintaining and correctly operating these systems.
This project, therefore, has three key research objectives:
- To establish an early evidence base for the health implications of existing mechanical ventilation technology.
- To explore the knowledge and perceptions of home occupants of the risks associated with poor indoor air quality.
- To explore home occupants’ behaviours in terms of correctly operating and maintaining mechanical ventilation systems.