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Damp and mould: causes and what can be done about it

SFHA Strategic Partner Changeworks Retrofit Consultant Sophie Burgess outlines how it can support housing associations to tackle the root causes of damp and mould. 

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By Changeworks Retrofit Consultant Sophie Burgess.

Damp and mould in homes is not just a nuisance; it is unhealthy for tenants and potentially damaging to the fabric of the building. Recent well-publicised cases, such as the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from mould in his home in Rochdale, highlight the impact of inaction.

In this article, Changeworks Retrofit Consultant Sophie Burgess - who presented at the recent SFHA Housing Management Conference – outlines how inefficient housing can lead to damp and mould, and how Changeworks can support housing associations to tackle the root causes and provide safe, comfortable homes for their tenants.

Impacts of damp and mould

Living in a damp, mould-filled home can have hugely negative impacts on householders. As well as being related to the development of various health conditions, dampness and mould can also impact mental health and general wellbeing. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk, as they tend to spend more time at home.

Mould and damp are often linked to inefficient housing, where properties are poorly heated and ventilated. The total cost to the NHS as a result of poor housing in England is £1.4b per year; £850m due to the effects of excess cold, £38m due to damp and £2.5m due to poor indoor air quality.

What are the causes?

To proliferate, mould requires the right conditions. Cold surfaces within homes, like internal corners and window frames, can cause a localised increase in relative humidity which causes water to condense and create the ideal conditions for mould to flourish.

What can be done?

Often, we deal with mould as it happens, through installation of anti-fungal treatments or moving furniture away from walls. However, this is treating the symptom and not the cause of mould. If the conditions persist, it is likely that the issue will return.

An effective way to reduce the risk of damp and mould is to improve a home’s energy efficiency. Installing energy efficiency measures can improve the internal temperatures and air quality of a home, reduce heating bills and limit the risk of damp and mould, promoting a healthy living environment.

This is best achieved through a whole house retrofit approach, which considers the interaction between insulation, airtightness, ventilation, and tenant behaviour in buildings. It includes the creation of a phased plan for installation of measures developed by knowledgeable professionals. If damp and mould is caused by defects in the building fabric, these must be addressed before making any energy efficiency upgrades.

How can we help?

It is important to ensure that any new energy efficiency measures are right for a home and will perform as expected. You can achieve this with pre- and post- building performance monitoring, alongside advice and support for tenants. At Changeworks, our Net Zero Pathways service supports registered social landlords to develop and deliver net zero strategies building on Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH2) analysis. We tailor solutions with end-to-end project management including monitoring and evaluation. We can also provide energy advice and tenant engagement to ensure tenants feel informed and supported.

Our team of experts can help you to have all the information you need to put a plan in place, and improve the wellbeing of tenants struggling with the impact of energy inefficient housing. We can help you to keep on top of incoming changes to standards for energy efficiency for social housing, and develop plans to deliver housing improvements that target energy efficiency and air quality; both of which will help tackle root causes of damp and mould in buildings.

Find out more at Housing Associations | Changeworks or contact workwithus@changeworks.org.uk to see how we can support you.

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