Q&A with Mark Allen, Technical Director for Saint-Gobain UK & Ireland
Do you think Building Regulations go far enough in providing healthy, comfortable and sustainable buildings?
In the last few years, there has been considerable focus on reducing energy consumption in homes. Energy efficiency is a step in the right direction when it comes to carbon reduction, but should not be considered as a singular solution.
Although homeowners may feel financial benefit from installing insulation and cutting energy bills, more needs to be done to make a home truly comfortable.
What makes a home truly comfortable?
It’s important to take a holistic approach to building and carefully consider all the different areas of comfort that a building should provide. Saint-Gobain has developed a concept that develops five primary comfort levels: thermal comfort, visual comfort, audio comfort, indoor air comfort and economic comfort, which are all interlinked.
Thermal comfort, for example, is the outcome of a well-balanced combination of building systems that strike a balance between insulation measures, solar gain, thermal inertia and airtightness and ventilation.
If one aspect is ignored, then user comfort can be significantly reduced. For example, some builds reduce window size in order to maintain good thermal efficiency, yet this also lessens natural light. In fact, increasing daylight is the top of the list for many homeowners*.
However, using the correct glazing specification can provide a well-balanced heat gain and loss ratio by using free heat from solar gain, as well as maintaining natural light in the building.
This is only one example of how each ‘comfort’ is linked, and by taking a well-rounded, holistic approach to building, occupants will really be able to feel the benefits.
How can the industry achieve sustainable, healthy buildings?
There is a strong relationship between a building’s design and occupant health, and although these benefits are not restricted to ‘green’ buildings, there is evidence suggesting a strong connection between the two.
We need to look further and evaluate buildings beyond energy use, and create whole systems that take into account each individual element contributing to comfort. It’s important to use materials that meet environmental credentials, but not at the expense of poor operational design, and a whole life cost analysis should be undertaken to determine the best maintenance strategies.
A house is also a home, and even in the current market, where demand far outstrips supply, housebuilders who deliver a house that takes into account each element of human comfort will have a competitive advantage. Of course, buyers still want buildings to deliver cost savings, and this is where a holistic approach to building will ensure that no corners are cut during the development process.
A balance between passive and active solutions can lead to optimum design performance, creating a balance between energy and wellbeing solutions.
* Homes and Property, 25 November 2015, http://bit.ly/209VAER