Gaia proposed a research project involving the development of a low allergy specification and subsequent construction, design and monitoring of affordable housing. The housing was funded by the Faiarfield Co-operative and Communities Scotland and conformed to affordable housing guidelines.
The impetus for the research was a precautionary approach to the affects of housing on health as there is increasing concern that housing conditions are a factor in breathing related disability. The extent and devastating impact of breathing related disability in the UK means that an affordable precautionary approach could be hugely beneficial.
Fourteen houses were designed, built and monitored at the World Habitat Award winning Fairfield Estate in Scotland to a specification that minimised sensitisation and reduced the triggers that promote attacks and the conditions that exacerbate them.
The study was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team involved in research and design practice who undertook temperature and humidity monitoring, dust mite sampling and chemical testing. It looked at the interplay of health, energy and environmental conditions. It included comparison of the effects of natural ventilation with those of whole house ventilation and dynamic insulation. Evaluation included comparison of allergen &humidity levels with assessed critical levels from other research.
The outcome was good quality homes, which are cheaper to run. The findings raise important questions about the ready availability of a precautionary approach and how linking environmental, social and economic factors really delivers sustainability benefits. Conflicts with building regulations are identified.