Enhancing residential developments with ventilation technology


03 April 2024

Tony Croke, Product Manager for Indoor Climate Solutions at Wavin, explains how mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems can play a key role in enhancing the experiences of residents whilst also lowering energy consumption and associated costs.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is increasingly under the spotlight for developers across the residential sector due to the growing awareness of Mycotoxins and how they adversely affect the respiratory system.

With high profile cases of moulds linked to numerous health issues in the media, developers are now under renewed pressure to guarantee that their approach is holistic and meets updated building regulations that have been designed to protect occupants of new residential developments.

Designers, developers, manufacturers, and regulators across the built environment are taking a broader view of their residential projects and are examining their societal, as well as environmental, impacts – including the health and wellbeing of occupants. Taking steps to promote enhanced IAQ is a crucial element of this and, in recent years, housing developers have come under increased pressure from central government to guarantee adequate and safe air quality indoors. 

In turn, this has seen a rise in demand for ventilation technology than enhances IAQ, such as MVHR systems which provide powerful airflows without any compromises to energy or cost efficiency. 

Prioritising health 

People in the UK spend between 80-90% of their time indoors, with this figure expectedly even higher for those vulnerable or physically immobile, and housing developers now have a personal stake in the health and wellbeing of the future occupants of developments. 

There are several airborne pollutants that are common within urban indoor environments like dust, pollen, and damp, as well as chemicals from everyday cleaning products. A failure to address these pollutants can have acute health impacts for residents with symptoms ranging from headaches to respiratory problems, collectively known as ‘sick building syndrome’

However, simply allowing for people to open a window to improve ventilation doesn’t solve the problem, as this air can contain equally harmful pollutants. External air pollution in UK urban areas is often notably high, with Greater London alone having reported the equivalent of between 3,600 and 4,100 deaths which were attributable to human-made pollutants in 2019. 

MVHR systems, such as Wavin’s Ventiza range, were created to take some of the pressure off traditional heating systems, passing air over a heat exchanger to bring it to an ambient temperature before it enters a home. Crucially, the systems also filter air for dust, pollen, and pollutants, meaning there is minimal negative ingress from outside. 

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The impact of pollution from human activity also can’t be ignored. A good example of this is if people choose to dry clothes indoors, on or close to radiators, during the winter months. This can lead to high levels of humidity indoors. A system such as Ventiza can remove between 2 and 9 litres of moisture from the air each day. 

Different pollutants have specific effects for different people, and MVHR systems allow users to adjust filters to limit their contact with the allergens and particles which are most damaging to their health. This feature also allows users to account for seasonal and regional variation – hay fever sufferers can protect themselves in the summer months and people can minimise the impact of specific sources of pollution in their local area. 

Optimising warmth

Another consequence of introducing air from outside using more traditional ventilation methods is allowing cold air in during the cooler months, putting pressure on heating systems and consequently driving up energy consumption. MVHR systems pass air over a heat exchanger, providing a consistent supply of warm, fresh air working in tandem rather than against existing systems. 

These solutions help overcome a fundamental problem that developers face when specifying ventilation systems in residential properties – how to balance the increased airflow provided by ventilation with airtightness and energy efficiency. Users can also run their heating systems using smart controls, so they have sight of energy efficiency while also staying warm. 

Many MVHR systems are also flexible, meaning housing developers and local authorities can choose the system that best suits the size of the home they’re fitting. The Ventiza range comes in four different sizes, meaning residents aren’t left with a too-large system that adds unnecessarily to heating bills or, conversely, one that isn’t up to the task. This diversity in size also comes in handy in urban environments, making MVHR a practical choice when space is often at a premium. 

Keeping costs low 

As the cost of living crisis appears to be easing, the notably high utility bills of previous years are still understandably a concern for many who will be seeking cheap ways to fuel and heat their homes. 

MVHR systems are an ideal solution to guarantee lower costs for homeowners due to their extremely lower power consumption, and their recycling of warm air inside. When twinned with effective insulation within a property, the financial benefits of an effective ventilation system are clearly evident to property owners and users.

New developments play a huge role in the provision of affordable, accessible housing to communities and residents should feel comfortable that the air in their home won’t have an adverse impact on their health. Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems are key in ensuring that designers and developers don’t have to choose between air quality and affordable solutions for occupants. Heating and ventilation systems that work together can help lessen the impact of rising energy bills, and ensure homes are fit for the intensive long-term use which is demanded of them. 

For more information about Wavin’s indoor climate solutions offering, including its MVHR ranges, visit: https://www.wavin.com/en-en.