Major research programme begins to investigate rising humidity and moisture in homes

[February 2018]

Work has begun on an extensive research programme between academics and a national trade body to investigate air quality in homes.

The Property Care Association (PCA) and the University College London Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (UCL IEDE) are carrying out a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to look into the issue of moisture in buildings.

As part of the project, data analysis has now begun at more than 30 homes across the UK.

Measurement tools including environmental sensors (data logging devices) are being placed into homes to measure environmental conditions, such as temperature and relative humidity as part of the activity.

A mix of property types, terraced and detached houses, flats and bungalows, in different UK regions are being used in the study to cover a representative mix of property types.

They will be in-situ for one month to help researchers gain a range of information for the project. The research will consider the factors that can have an impact on a building’s performance, such as occupant lifestyles, the condition of the structure and climate.

With this information on board, the UCL IEDE team and the PCA hope to develop a process that will help surveyors with the diagnosis and repair of damp buildings in the future.

The activity is part of an ongoing Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between UCL IEDE and the trade body.

Dr Lopez-Arce is the KTP Associate for the project and brings more than 17 years’ experience gained in the built environment to the role, with specialisms including moisture monitoring studies for the diagnosis of physico-chemical weathering processes of building materials, the treatment of rising damp, moisture and salt decay.

Dr Lopez-Arce, said: “We believe this is one of the largest environmental monitoring projects of its type currently undertaken in UK homes.

“The data we receive will help us build a picture of the issues surrounding excess atmospheric moisture in homes.”

Last year, the PCA reported a surge in the levels of excess atmospheric moisture in properties across the UK, with the trade body reporting that many of its 400 members are encountering higher levels of humidity and wetness in homes.

The association says a range of factors associated with modern living and the way homes are occupied are contributing to the rise.

These include increased levels of occupation and rising fuel costs, as well as a drive to make homes more energy efficient. Efforts to reduce air leakage through draught proofing and retrofit insulation, as well as the changing climate patterns, featuring warmer, wetter weather, are also of significance.

Steve Hodgson, Chief Executive of the PCA, said: “Left unchecked, the resulting problems from excess moisture can include poor air quality, condensation, dampness and mould.

“These are issues which can affect people’s quality of life and it is important to find out why we are finding the situation becoming more and more common.”

The PCA says effective ventilation is key to resolving the issue. Recently the trade body established the Residential Ventilation Group (RVG) to signpost people to specialists capable of designing and delivering residential ventilation solutions which are right first time.

A video produced by the PCA, which is available to view here and offers a comprehensive insight into the issue of air quality in homes and the significance of ventilation. www.property-care.org