Assessing the quality of existing ventilation

As temperatures drop and people spend more time indoors, the winter months can exacerbate poor indoor air quality problems and provide an environment where condensation and mould can thrive. John Bradley from at Homevent looks at some of the tools available to those tasked with delivering residential ventilation. 

Condensation season has always sharpened focus on the need for a good ventilation strategy in residential properties. As the outside air gets colder, issues such as condensation and mould become prevalent. With more people now working from home, the importance of adequate ventilation for the wellbeing of occupants, as well as protection of the building fabric and contents, has become even more critical.

Although this is not a new issue, there is an increasing public awareness surrounding the problems associated with poorly ventilated spaces. A recent survey of renters revealed that poor housing is harming the health of one in five renters in England, with mould, damp and cold the main triggers of sickness.

This arrives at a time when tenants are being given more power to act on ventilation that is perceived to be poor. The introduction of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act in 2018 has put the onus on landlords to provide adequate ventilation or, to quote government guidance on the Act, ‘enough ventilation’ for their tenants. 

Proving that there is enough or adequate ventilation in existing properties poses a unique problem. While newer homes in England should come with certification that ventilation measures are installed in accordance with Approved Document F, such certification doesn’t exist for the vast majority of existing dwellings.

Mixed results

Often, there is a mixture of different types of ventilation technologies that have been installed over the years, which can make it difficult for landlords to prove compliance if challenged by their tenants or advisors. It can also present issues to contractors who are tasked with either replacing or consolidating these systems into a unified strategy that delivers the correct level of performance. 

Typically, landlords have relied on ‘specialists’ to carry out ventilation assessments or surveys. These specialists may be manufacturers of solutions, which means they will adopt different processes depending on their own product portfolio. This can lead to a huge range in the scope of such surveys or assessments provided, and ultimately means that the solutions specified are inconsistent from one survey to another.

Peace of mind

To provide peace of mind to landlords that they can provide the proof they need to fight any claim made by a tenant that there is ‘not enough ventilation’, there needs to be a more standardised approach to the assessment of existing systems. 

This is the ethos behind our soon to be launched Ventilation MOT – this is a systematic assessment developed in partnership with Cornerstone Professional Services which allows trained and certified surveyors to input data on existing ventilation measures into an app. The program evaluates this data and uses thousands of algorithms to quickly rate the ventilation measures installed against different recognised residential ventilation strategies.

The user can then be advised whether or not the property has ‘adequate ventilation’. From both a contactor and landlord perspective, this is crucial in analysing how varied and separate systems, which may have been installed over the course of decades, work together to ventilate a space.

Ensuring compliance

Landlords are best served by having a detailed, technically robust, and independent ventilation assessment to determine if their property is compliant with the Homes Act. This will help to keep tenants happy, and prevent housing providers from falling foul of complaints and claims. That’s where expertise of contractors, in conjunction with tools such as the Ventilation MOT, will play a vital role in combating condensation this winter. 

 

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