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 05-07 March 2019 / ExCeL, London

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20 Feb 2019

The Health and Wellbeing Challenge: Towards Healthier Buildings and Homes

Anne Godfrey, Chief Executive Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)

We spend the vast majority of our lives indoors - whether that is at home, a place of work or education. Whilst these places should be places of safety and sanctuary, this is not always the case.

Whilst interest in the relationship between health and home is growing, we are still failing as a nation to tackle some very basic problems. Last year, over 50,000 more people lost their lives in the winter months – 15,000 of these are thought to be due to living in a cold home. These deaths are avoidable and could have been prevented – but are probably only the tip of the iceberg. Research in this area tells us that buildings affect more than physical health, but also mental health, wellbeing and educational attainment in children.

New buildings will provide homes and spaces for people to use for many years to come. Whilst these generally have fewer hazards, we must not be complacent and aim to improve health through building design rather than simply aiming to reach compliance or a minimum standard. Designing for health is about balancing and considering the interactions in a home and their impact on wellbeing, even if these are not immediately visible – this includes usable space, access to natural light, good ventilation as well as insulation, noise separation and good indoor air quality. Our homes should be able to cater for the more vulnerable, such as children and elderly. If a home is safe for these groups, there is a good chance it will also maintain the health of the average adult.

If we are to be successful in making housing safer and healthier, we should have a credible strategy about how to improve all housing stock, regardless of tenure and age. In the UK, we have some of the oldest housing stock in Europe. Almost a quarter of us live in a dwelling that is over 100 years old. 1.1m homes are in the worst two bands and many buildings still do not have an Energy Performance Certificate at all. Appropriate renovation, repair and maintenance of older buildings is vital to transforming our nation’s housing stock for the benefit public health. We need to find some credible solutions of how to deal with all the households who might own their home but lack the funds to be able to maintain it well. However, the private rented sector still has top position for the largest proportion of non-decent homes, 27%, compared to other tenures. With the growth in this tenure and its use by more families and vulnerable people than before, we need the focus to remain on improving condition in this sector.

The health and wellbeing challenge lies not only in designing healthy buildings of the future but also about re-focussing our efforts on improving the housing that is already built and ensuring this is as good as it can be. Join us as we discuss this issue at 1630 on 05 March at Futurebuild. You can register for your free place here.

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