Some local air pollution so bad that new homes may have to be airtight, to keep dirty air out

There is speculation that a new government white paper on housing, due to be published soon, is considering making it compulsory for new homes in areas of poor air quality to be fitted with whole-house ventilation systems. That would mean airtight doors and sealed windows to protect families from smog and pollution in the air outside. (The government refuted the claim adding that it could not disclose what was in the White Paper.)  Local authorities would be required to make airtight homes a condition when granting planning permission to a development in an air quality management area. There are about 700 such zones – including near Heathrow.  Local authorities already have powers to order a developer to incorporate a whole-house ventilation system in a housing development in such an area but this is not compulsory at present. Simon Birkett, of Clean Air in London, said: “…we either build houses in polluted areas and dump people in them and wait 15 or so years, or we put in measures to help. That’s the choice.” Much air pollution actually comes from within the home, from activities such as burning candles, use of aerosols and cleaning products. The impact on mental well-being of living in a sealed home, unable to open windows, is not known.


Airtight houses needed to protect Londoners from rise in pollution, experts say

By SAPHORA SMITH (Evening Standard)

London’s air pollution is so high all new homes and schools should be “sealed up”, only allowing filtered air to enter buildings, experts say.

Housing experts have called for all new London homes to be fitted with whole-house ventilation systems which include airtight doors, windows which cannot be opened, and filters to purify outdoor air entering the home.

The call comes ahead of a Government White Paper on housing which is due to be published later this month.

The Sunday Times reported last week the paper would make the use of whole-house ventilation systems obligatory in developments in highly-polluted areas – under current legislation it’s up to local authorities to decide whether to force developers to install them as a condition of planning permission.

But the Government refuted the claim adding that it could not disclose what was in the White Paper.

Simon Birkett of Clean Air London said all new builds should be sealed from toxic pollutants.

He told the Standard: “It’s essential we start protecting people from fumes.  Some London streets have the highest level of nitrogen dioxide, the toxic gas which comes from diesel fumes, in the world.  We have to seal up buildings because we really have no choice.

“If you live in a polluted spot in London there is no other way to protect people inside while we try to clean up the pollution at its source.

“You can remove 90% of the worst pollution in outdoor air through air filtration. So we either build houses in polluted areas and dump people in them and wait 15 or so years, or we put in measures to help. That’s the choice.”

Clive Shrubsole, an expert in indoor environments at University College London, said mandatory whole-house ventilation systems in new builds was long overdue.

He told the Standard: “The UK indoor environments group have been calling for this for a long time. We need to put health at the core of all our housing policies because healthy business and living environments are good for business in the long term because they increase productivity.”

But Mr Shrubsole stressed the need for “a balanced ventilation system” which could stop external pollutants getting in and at the same time allow internal pollutants, such as moisture and particle matter from cooking, to get out.

Airtight houses are seen as a key solution to enable house building in London, the vast of majority of which is classified as an Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA), which means pollution breaches legal limits.

According to the National Planning Policy Framework new developments cannot “contribute to, or put people at risk from being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of soil, air, water, or noise pollution.”

Some have interpreted this to mean no new houses or schools should be built in AQAMs, and therefore in almost all of London.

The Home Builders Federation said it was impossible to stop building houses in London and agreed airtight houses offered one solution to the pollution crisis.

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation said: “For social and economic reasons and to make the best use of land, we clearly need to continue to build homes in London.

“The potential to include mitigation measures alongside new developments suggests that modern, energy efficient homes, using the most up to date technologies which are well located to facilities people need to use, have the potential to be part of the solution to improving air quality, rather than contributing to the problem.


There are many other news stories about air pollution, especially in relation to Heathrow, at