Break the cycle of damp and mould with mechanical ventilation

Here, James Kane, Regional Sales Manager – Social Housing at EnviroVent, looks at the causes and impact of mould in residential properties and outlines the key actions social housing providers need to take in order to eradicate this problem and comply with the new guidance.

“We’re rapidly heading towards winter, which can be the busiest time of the year for social housing maintenance departments.

One of the main reasons for this is the rising cases of condensation and mould growth.

Every year, in homes without adequate ventilation, condensation forms on cool surfaces when the air outside cools. Air at normal room temperature can hold approximately 17g of water vapour per cubic metre, but at 15°C, the temperature you find around windows or draughty corners, the water can only hold 13g of water vapour. This might not sound like much, but in an average sized room, the difference can be the equivalent of a glass of water.

Condensation can form on any surface and when it appears on porous surfaces such as wood or walls, it can create damp patches where mould will start to grow.

How mould affects health

There is no denying that mould growth is unsightly, but it can also be harmful to health. Health issues that can arise include asthma, allergic rhinitis and other respiratory diseases.

Exposure to toxic black mould can be extremely serious. The mycotoxins produced by Stachybotrys Chartarum can destroy brain neurons and have an impact on our mental and emotional health.

In serious cases, people ingesting spores from toxic black mould can experience dizziness, confusion, and even hallucinations. Mould is particularly serious in homes where the occupants may have underlying respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems, as is the case in old people and the very young.

Social landlords have long been aware how damp and mould can be harmful to health if left untreated and many housing associations and local authorities have taken proactive measures to address these.  Often these problems start when properties are upgraded with cavity wall insulation or fitted with more thermally efficient windows and doors, without adequate ventilation installed.

Following heightened awareness of the serious health risks that damp and mould can pose in homes, the UK Government has recently released new guidance (‘Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home’) to make sure that social and private sector landlords have a thorough understanding of their legal responsibilities.

Well insulated homes with inadequate ventilation provides the perfect breeding ground for mould growth, especially on ceilings and around windows. The most common cause of damp patches where mould can grow is condensation which forms when warm, humid air meets cold surfaces and releases water vapour.

When condensation forms on walls, it can quickly soak through paint or paper into the underlying plaster where it creates a damp patch where mould can start to grow.

New Government guidance, which has been developed by a multidisciplinary group of experts in housing and health, states that landlords and social housing providers must ensure that the accommodation they provide is free from serious hazards, including damp and mould, and that homes are fit for habitation. Cases of damp and mould need to be treated extremely seriously and action to protect tenants’ health must be taken promptly.

The guidance also recommends that landlords adopt a proactive approach to tackling damp and mould.  This should include understanding the condition of homes and adopting a preventative approach to dealing with this, including upgrading ventilation, addressing energy efficiency and any building deficiencies before damp and mould occur.

Ventilation manufacturers like EnviroVent can work with social housing providers to help them meet these requirements and provide good indoor air quality that benefits the health of their tenants.

Effective ventilation 

Whole house ventilation systems, such as the *ATMOS® Positive Input Ventilation system, are designed to provide effective ventilation throughout the home, eradicating condensation, maintaining correct humidity levels and ensuring homes have a constant supply of clean, tempered air.

By drawing in fresh, filtered and clean air from outside, they dilute, displace and replace moisture-laden air to control humidity levels so that condensation, mould and other indoor contaminants are significantly reduced, transforming stagnant and stale air into a fresh, healthy and condensation-free environment.

As well as the reduction or elimination of condensation and damp, and the prevention of mould, effective mechanical ventilation systems offer a number of other crucial benefits, such as the eradication of musty odours, fewer pollutants and allergens.

Social housing providers are increasingly aware of the importance of good ventilation in their homes. Installing an efficient ventilation system is a must, as this is the key to providing good indoor air quality to enhance the health of residents.”