Government to issue guidance in Part F as draft BRE study finds widespread failure to maintain filters

The government is to consult on new building regulations following concerns that ventilation systems required by the new wave of energy-efficient homes could damage the health of residents.

The government is so concerned over the installation and maintenance of the systems it will include guidance in a consultation on changes to Part F of the Building Regulations, due in the next few weeks.

In addition, it has co-sponsored a report with the National House Building Council to investigate the scale of the problem. The draft report by the BRE’s Dr Michael Swainson and seen by Building, found that filters were not being replaced when worn out, which could lead to a build-up of humidity, carbon dioxide

and other pollutants, as well as driving up energy use. It also says this could increase the risk of cancer in the homes of smokers.

Mechanical ventilation systems are required in energy-efficient airtight homes to make sure that fresh air can circulate and that pollutants and humidity are extracted from the house. However, like a hoover, if the filter is not replaced the system stops working.

The systems are virtually unavoidable if a home is to meet level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which all new homes in the social sector must meet by 2010.

Particular problems occur if extract fans in bathrooms and kitchens are not properly installed because raised humidity can encourage mould spores, leading to breathing problems, particularly for asthma sufferers.

The BRE’s report said: “There is no market for replacement filters, with several manufacturers reporting no filter sales at all. Even basic maintenance is not undertaken.”

Swainson has written an addition to Part F for the communities department, which he said would be in the upcoming consultation.

Kelly Butler, director of The Electric Heating and Ventilation Association, said: “The design’s fine, the product’s great off the bench and then it all goes wrong on site.”