Healthy Homes Ireland is a new forum that has been established to advance a greener and healthier living environment in Ireland’s homes.
The forum, founded with the support of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) and Velux, has a steering group comprising I5 leaders in construction, engineering, architecture, public health and the environment.
Kevin O’Rourke, Chairperson, Healthy Homes Ireland, says that Irish homes are estimated to be 1.9 times more likely to have dampness and 2.4 times more likely to have insufficient daylight than our EU counterparts.
“Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and making them healthier must go together. While decarbonising our homes is critical to reaching our climate targets, health risks from poor indoor air quality, insufficient light, dampness, and noise pollution must also be addressed.”
Covid-19 impact on homes
The overall impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the requirement to work from home, has further highlighted the importance of our health and living environments. This is especially important for children as the effect of a poor living environment, not to mention the school environment, can have long term consequences.
According to a Velux pre-Covid Healthy Homes Barometer research study, one in four Irish children lives in an unhealthy home. Growing up in an unhealthy environment is associated with a higher likelihood of childhood health issues such as asthma and eczema.
Identifying gaps in public policy
Dr Jens Christoffersen, Senior Researcher, Velux, explains, “We already know from our previous research that air quality, cold, dampness, lack of soundproofing and insufficient daylight is an issue in Irish housing. As 90% of our time is spent indoors, two-thirds of which is in our homes, we must look at ways to improve the health of our living environment. We are delighted to support this forum, and we are looking forward to the results of a Healthy Homes Ireland research study next year. This will shed light on potential gaps in public policy and practice that may compound this issue and what we need to do in the years ahead to protect our health at home.”
Healthy Homes Ireland will also consider aspects of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which requires all new builds and major renovations to meet the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) requirement as well as the health and wellbeing of building users.
Marion Jammet, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Irish Green Building Council, says that Healthy Homes Ireland is aligned to IGBC’s overall objective to transform the Irish building industry to sustainable practices through policy creation and education.
“All housing construction in Ireland should be well thought out and delivered to protect the health and wellbeing of the population. A healthy home is not just bricks and mortar, it is also one that allows homeowners to connect to the local community and access services such as childcare and public transport.”
The HHI steering group will meet quarterly and a wider forum of stakeholders with an interest in, and responsibility for, delivering better, healthier homes in Ireland will come together twice a year to fulfil the aim of HHI. The outcomes from the forum’s work will be the presentation of evidence-based solutions to the government, with an improved understanding among policymakers of what is a healthy home and how to achieve it.
Healthy Homes Ireland forum members
Healthy Homes Ireland forum members include Kevin O’Rourke, Chair; Dr Marie Coggins, Senior Lecturer in Exposure Science at School of Physics, NUIG; Justin Conway, Operations Director, Aereco Ltd; Neil Freshwater, Public Affairs Manager GB & Ireland, Velux; Conor Hanniffy, Programme Manager, SEAI’s Warmer Homes Programme and Warmth & Wellbeing and Deep Retrofit Pilot Programmes; Marion Jammet, Head of Policy & Advocacy, IGBC; Deirdre Keeley, Assistant Practice Director, Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland; Michael Kellymór, Technical Manager, Cairn PLC; Dr Paul Kenny, Lecturer, School of Architecture & a Principal Investigator with Earth Institute at UCD; Joseph Little, Assistant Head of School, Dublin School of Architecture, TUD; Michael O’Brien, Innovation & Development Manager, Waterford & Wexford Education and Training Board; Colin Simpson, Housing/Commercial Delivery Manager, 3cea; Susan Vickers, Energy & Environmental Manager, Clúid Housing; James Benson, Director, Irish Home Builders Federation; Ruth Kerrigan; Chief Operating Officer, Integrated Environmental Solutions Ltd.