Good ventilation practice in social housing


Poor indoor air quality and ventilation in general current housing stock has always been a huge challenge for social housing bodies. Roy Byom from Titon explains

Houses, flats and apartments built over several decades have had differing ideas and applications from all manner of materials and products. Although Building Regulations have altered to try and regulate aspects of homes’ future and present, much of what has been proposed or recommended has allowed for basic performance of product and materials with little policing to maintain higher standards.

The Decent Homes Standard was meant to improve living standards for social housing stock and breathe new life into conditions, not just for now but with an element of future proofing living conditions. To a degree this has happened, however, as we stand and reflect on what has been delivered, we have to be honest and say things are slipping back to pre-Decent Homes standards due to poor levels of maintenance and the lack of continual investment.

Among recommended changes to differing social housing issues, the one constant is the need for better indoor air quality and ventilation practices. Our industry has seen that good ventilation has been way down the list of priorities when applying changes – the lack of good ventilation practice in social housing has been and still is being played out in different forms across the housing sector.

During the last couple of years, Covid and the lockdown situation have exacerbated an already fragile situation in social housing, with a massive rise in disrepair cases which have overwhelmed the already stretched resources of many maintenance and repair departments. The advice from the Government has been to ventilate to help stop the spread of Covid in homes.

During the colder months of the year, most people will look to heat their property over anything else. It is also natural to keep the windows closed for longer to retain heat; however, with poor or inadequate ventilation this invariably means keeping moisture laden air in – which will almost certainly lead to major condensation and mould issues in the most vulnerable properties.

In recent times there have been several high profile cases highlighting the tragic effect of what happens when poor indoor air quality is left to fester without good advice, and application. These have been well documented over the years by the media, and blame is often focused on the landlord.

There is no one panacea that will conquer all the ills of poor ventilation in social housing, however, everybody has a part to play in making the right application to drive this issue down. Everybody being surveyors, asset managers, product specifiers, maintenance managers, product installers, maintenance contractors, and even the tenants themselves can all contribute to help with good practice for ventilation in social housing stock.

All parties involved with ventilation products should have an understanding of why this occurs through education and advice. Products that have been specified should not perform at the basic level to tick a box, and not be the cheapest product. Ventilation products should be able to cope with reasonable moisture levels found in most homes when cooking, bathing, washing and drying clothes, especially during the cooler months in the year. There are very good products out there on the market, recent changes in the Building Regulations give enough guidance for higher performance levels. New reporting technologies are also playing a part to help monitor IAQ situations in homes, however the homes require high level ventilation equipment to aid situations in properties with overcrowding.

Good ventilation education and advice for all parties involved needs to be part of any changes if we stand a chance of reversing the current upward trend for disrepair cases. It would be nice to think that the vast majority of landlords in various guises are keen to get the usual properties off the reoccurring list on a permanent basis. The major challenge of today comes with other factors not seen on such a level as cost of living increases, this played a part of the equation in the past and is now more widespread.

So in essence the likelihood is that good ventilation can be achieved, there just needs to be the desire and responsibility of all involved to make sure that better and higher levels of performance from products and applications are being used. Titon has the knowledge, experience and products to help any situation especially for Social Housing. Ventilation is key and an important part to any dwelling where people’s health can potentially be compromised.

Roy Byom is sales manager for social housing at Titon