Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Fuel Poverty: 1 Million UK Families Cannot Afford to Heat their Homes

As designers of super insulated and healthy buildings we were saddened to read in this BBC news article that more than 1 million families in the UK cannot afford to heat their poorly insulated homes, and are living in squalid, damp, cold and mouldy conditions. Given that in 2000 Parliament aimed to end fuel poverty by 2016, it is clear that there is still a long way to go.  

A warm and healthy home should be a fundamental right of any family.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

'Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control’

This is more than simply providing shelter from the elements; the standard of housing has to be adequate for the health and well-being of the individual. It is well known by medical professions that damp and mouldy conditions affect the immune system, often resulting in respiratory infections, allergies, and asthma; these are not thriving conditions for growing families, and the mental stress associated with these conditions should not be underestimated. These conditions still fall short of any basic human right.    

Insulating buildings and providing adequate air quality is not just about saving energy and reducing fuel poverty; it can and should also provide comfortable, healthy conditions in which people can thrive.

An example of unsatisfactory standards of living - photo from www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35834733

Gale & Snowden Architects has always been concerned with the health impacts of our buildings, continually striving to research and specify materials and finishes which do not unduly impact on the health of occupants.

More recently, G&S has been instrumental in establishing the Building Biology Association (BBA), a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to raise the awareness and promote an understanding of the importance of healthy buildings.
As part of its commitment to education, the BBA will be launching the IBN Building Biology Consultant course in May 2016, with part of the syllabus addressing health hazards in buildings.

The course, fully accredited by the Institut für Baubiologie + Nachhaltigkeit (IBN), has been translated into English for the first time, and will involve online learning, face-to-face seminars, and a written exam after the duration of the course, typically undertaken over a 12 month period.

The first online course is scheduled to start from May 15th with the BBA assisting the IBN in running the course in the UK. Additional courses will be run at regular intervals following the launch of the first course.

The BBA will soon be sending out further details about the course and how you can apply.

To be kept up-to-date with the latest BBA news and information, you can sign up to their mailing list here or follow them on twitter or facebook.