This short essay is written in plain English of the 3 minute thesis presentation of LoLo CDT Student Cairan Van Rooyen’s and provides an introduction to his PhD project:
The relationship between ventilation practices, indoor air quality, noise and overheating, and their impact on health.
Europeans spend most of our time indoors. Elderly, very young, sick and disabled people spend even more time indoors than most of us. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more of our time is spent at home than ever before. Temperatures, the quality of the air and noise inside our homes (e.g. bedroom, living room), are collectively referred to as indoor environmental quality (IEQ); this plays an important role in our health and well-being. Many thousands of people die and even more are admitted to hospitals every year with cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health problems, due to their exposure to high temperatures, poor air quality and high levels of noise inside and outside homes. The health risks to the population are set to rise as temperatures increase due to climate change and more people move into cities, which experience higher temperatures and air pollution. Further, as the UK population gets bigger and older, the impact of the indoor environment on the health and well-being of the UK population is going to become more important.
Indoor temperatures, air quality and noise are all influenced by the way that we ventilate our homes. Most of our homes in the UK are ventilated by extract fans in our kitchens and bathrooms, trickle vents and opening our windows. Ventilation can either improve or worsen different aspects of the IEQ and in turn, have a positive or negative impact on our health. For homes in noisy and polluted areas, opening windows can allow air pollution, noise and high temperatures from outside to enter our homes. Alternatively, people can choose to close their trickle vents and not open windows due to outside noise and security concerns. Depending on the location and activities in the house this can cause pollutants (from indoor sources) and temperatures to build up to potentially dangerous levels and have a negative impact on the health of the people living there.
We do not know enough about how, when, where and why we ventilate our homes and how ventilation impacts indoor temperatures, air quality and noise. The aim of this research is to understand how people ventilate their homes and how this impacts IEQ (building overheating, indoor air quality and noise). This research will consider this relationship with the primary focus on the impacts of IEQ on health and wellbeing.
This research will use a case-study method, using both physical measurements and information from building occupants. Measurements of temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, window opening/closing, ventilation operation and noise will be taken inside and outside of 4 homes in the UK. A questionnaire will be used to obtain information from people on the way they ventilate their homes and to get more information on the household.
By understanding how, when, where and why we ventilate our homes and how this impacts IEQ and health, we will look at ways to improve current and future homes. This enables policies to be designed to consider all aspects of the indoor environment together, leading to better health outcomes compared to addressing only a single aspect of IEQ. This research will also allow building designers to make better decisions on which ventilation systems to use for different buildings and to think about IEQ as a whole. Academics and building designers can use this understanding to improve the way that they model buildings and the way that people behave in their home, which will lead to better quality research. This research will also allow organisations like Public Health England to educate and advise us on how to better ventilate our homes in order to be protected from the potentially harmful effects of overheating, air quality and noise inside homes as well as to inform policy makers.
The primary impact of this research is to reduce indoor overheating, poor indoor air quality and excess noise throughout homes in the UK. This improvement in IEQ will result in a reduction in the amount of people suffering from cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health problems and reduce the amount of people that die as a result of these health conditions. Current and future generations of the British population will indirectly benefit from improved health and well-being through better-informed regulations, improved public health guidance around ventilation and an improved knowledge of ventilation and IEQ in the general population. They will also further benefit from better designed buildings and their ventilation systems.
A population with improved health and well-being will result in less money spent on the public healthcare system and less loss in productivity, resulting in a stronger economy. Improved health and well-being will mean that people will be happier and society as a whole will benefit.
Watch the presentation here: