NEW FORUM SET UP TO ADVANCE GREENER, HEALTHIER HOMES
Healthy Homes Ireland, a new forum established to influence public policy, hosted its inaugural virtual meeting recently to advance a greener and healthier living environment in Ireland’s homes. Founded with the support of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) and VELUX, Healthy Homes Ireland is led by a high level steering group of I5 notable leaders in construction, engineering, architecture, public health and the environment. The forum will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to address the health problems caused by existing low-quality homes. It also aims to ensure there is no compromise between health and energy efficiency in new build homes.
Chair of Healthy Homes Ireland, Kevin O’Rourke, stressed the importance of the forum’s work: “Irish homes are estimated to be 1.9 times more likely to have dampness and 2.4 times more likely to have insufficient daylight compared to our EU counterparts. Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and making them healthier must go together. While decarbonising our homes is critical to reach our climate targets, health risks from poor indoor air quality, insufficient light, damp, and noise pollution must also be addressed.”
The overall impact of Covid-19, including the requirement to work from home, has further highlighted the importance of our health and living environments. This is especially important for children as the effect of a poor living environment, not to mention the school environment, can have long term consequences. According to VELUX’s pre-Covid Healthy Homes Barometer research study, 1 in 4 Irish children are living in unhealthy homes. Growing up in an unhealthy environment is associated with a higher likelihood of childhood health issues such as asthma and eczema.
Dr. Jens Christoffersen, Senior Researcher for VELUX said: ‘We already know from our previous research that air quality, cold, damp, lack of soundproofing and insufficient daylight is an issue in Irish housing. As 90% of our time is spent indoors, two thirds of which is in our homes, we must look at ways to improve the health of our living environment. We are delighted to support this forum and we are looking forward to the results of a Healthy Homes Ireland research study next year. This will shed light on potential gaps in public policy and practice that may compound this issue, and what we need to do in the years ahead to protect our health at home.”
Healthy Homes Ireland will also consider aspects of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) which requires all new builds and major renovations to meet the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) requirement as well as the health and well-being of building users.
Marion Jammet, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Irish Green Building Council added: “Healthy Homes Ireland is aligned to our overall objective to transform the Irish building industry to sustainable practices through policy creation and education. All housing construction in Ireland should be well thought out and delivered to protect the health and wellbeing of the population. A healthy home is not just bricks and mortar, it is also one that allows homeowners to connect to the local community and access services such as childcare and public transport.”
The HHI steering group will meet quarterly and a wider forum of stakeholders with an interest in, and responsibility for, delivering better, healthier homes in Ireland will come together twice a year to fulfil the aim of HHI. The outcomes from the work of the forum will be the presentation of evidence-based solutions to government, with an improved understanding among policymakers of what is a healthy home and how to achieve it.
Denise Maguire Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine