Around the UK, people are packing up their garden furniture for another year, making sure their gutters are in good order for the winter and reluctantly switching on their heating to make their homes cosy for the dark evenings to come. In short, we’re getting ready to enjoy the comfort of home in the winter months; an idea the Danes call ‘Hygge’.
There’s much that we can all do to make our living environments more comfortable during the colder months. Modern building regulations mean that today’s new builds are certainly warmer than the draughty homes of the past, but are they healthier? That’s debatable.
Last year, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Healthy Homes and Buildings published a report about the need to build homes and buildings that are designed to support our physical and mental wellbeing. The report https://bit.ly/2zWhOW6 not only provides a compelling public health requirement for healthier buildings but also outlines a tangible, commercially-driven business case for improved design and specification of our built environment.
In an era when most of us typically spend around 90% of our time indoors, creating a built environment that supports our health, wellbeing and happiness is vital. And that’s not just the conclusion of a Government think tank; the APPG considered a survey of 3000 UK households, 90% of whom said they wanted a healthier home and 30% of whom said they were prepared to pay for it.
So how do we provide these healthier homes? The APPG report identifies numerous areas that should be considered, including the availability of natural light, the choice of colours to reduce and anxiety, storage to enable stress-free functional living and bedroom environments that support a healthy night’s sleep. However, much of the focus is on creating a healthier indoor environment by ensuring a comfortable temperature and improved air quality; a message that we at NBT have been communicating for quite some time!
Woodfibre insulation such as the Pavatex range available from NBT addresses many of the areas identified by the APPG report, including resilience to climate change, prevention of both overheating and heat loss, energy efficiency, sound insulation and the use of materials that provide improved air quality.
How does one element of the building fabric achieve so much? Because woodfibre insulation not only provides excellent thermal performance to keep buildings warmer during cold weather, but also protects against heat in summer. This is because it has much greater thermal mass than conventional insulation, which makes it particularly effective at buffering the high levels of heat energy the sun throws at a building during warmer months. Consequently, buildings constructed or retrofitted using woodfibre insulation like Pavatex are less likely to require comfort cooling such as air conditioning, and will, therefore, be better equipped to cope with the consequences of climate change without increasing their energy load or reducing air quality with recirculated air.
For too long, the dialogue about insulation has been all about how we make buildings warmer; an understandable enough topic of conversation given our damp and often dreary climate. But warmth is not the only factor in a comfortable, healthy indoor environment and it’s time to extend the focus to include air quality, noise abatement and an all-year-round temperature that supports reduced energy loads and increased comfort.