Does Channel 4’s Social Housing Exposé Portray the Whole Picture?

NBT Updates

Anyone who watched Channel 4’s Dispatches series on the conditions that some social housing tenants are living in was probably just as horrified as I was about the mould and harmful spores on the interior walls of their homes.

This certainly doesn’t reflect NBT’s experience of the social housing sector, where some excellent work is being done to raise standards beyond Decent Homes and drive new approaches to healthier living environments and sustainability. In fact, many are not aware that social housing has a regulatory requirement to be built to a better standard than private housing. However, for the families affected, it is completely unacceptable that their homes are actually harmful to health, particularly when it is perfectly possible to address the issues with the correct approach to refurbishment.

 

A Common Problem

Historically, damp and mould has often been an issue in social housing properties. A legacy of cheaply built post war  homes constructed using low cost materials means that many properties are susceptible to:

  • thermal bridging
  • condensation
  • the growth of spores over time

Performance of the building fabric can then exacerbated by social issues, such as fuel poverty and overcrowding, creating a situation where moisture from high occupancy levels is trapped in poorly ventilated homes and the use of heating is limited.

 

Drive for Improvement

In our experience, many housing associations are doing all they can to counter this situation, both by upgrading the design and build materials used for new developments, and by refurbishing legacy estates to improve the building fabric.

When done well, refurbishment of older social housing homes not only enhances comfort and reduces susceptibility to condensation and mould but also improves thermal performance so that tenants need to use their heating less to keep their homes warm. In this way, upgrading the property can help to address both the causes and symptoms of fuel poverty.

The reason that NBT works so closely with several housing association is that we have woodfibre internal wall insulation (IWI) systems that have been especially designed for retrofit installations. The Pavadry and Pavadentro systems work with the building physics of the original construction to provide a diffusion-open insulation that improves thermal performance without trapping moisture inside. In this way, the threat of condensation is reduced and the potential for mould growth is, therefore, eliminated.

 

Extended Service Life

Many housing associations are now facing a situation where they are having to rectify the cost cutting of the past and it can be hard to upgrade occupied buildings. However, the good news is that building materials have improved since many of these lower quality properties were first built and using IWI solutions like Pavadentro and Pavadry not only improves the health and wellbeing in tenants in the short term, extends the service life of the asset, but can be delivered on a room, by room basis reducing the disruption to the occupant. Thus making the improvements an excellent long term investment.