Living, learning and working in unhealthy buildings will cost the UK economy over £55bn between now and 2060, according to a report by research institute RAND Europe and roof window manufacturer VELUX.
The findings are from the 2019 UK Healthy Homes Barometer report, which was launched today (7 Nov) at a seminar in London. Children are particularly at risk, with 9,500 British children living in an unhealthy home who also have a serious illness.
The research also found that over 490,000 school days are lost in the UK each year due to illnesses associated with unhealthy housing. Furthermore, several studies have found that improving indoor air quality in school buildings would mean increased productivity of 15%.
Last month, the Europe-wide version of the Barometer was published and shows that the United Kingdom ranks 21 out of 28 when it comes to unhealthy homes. At the bottom of the list in 28th place is Portugal, with the least healthy housing. Finland comes first with the healthiest.
The rankings look at the percentage of children who are at risk due to poor housing that experiences dampness, darkness, cold temperatures or excessive noise. The data is taken from the European Union’s EUROSTAT ‘Income and Living Conditions in Europe’ survey.
Daniel Ghert, Lead Researcher at RAND Europe added: “Our study shows that good indoor climate is not just a question of comfort, but also a substantial factor for health, and notably also for health of children. This further translates into costs for society at large. The fact that Finland, in spite of being one of Europe’s northernmost and coldest countries, manages to have the best indoor climate of all EU member states, could serve as an example for other countries.”
Commenting on the Healthy Homes Barometer Report, Neil Freshwater, VELUX spokesperson said: “Now in its fifth year, the annual Healthy Homes Barometer takes the pulse of the housing stock across Europe, and today we launch our findings for the United Kingdom. What is clear is that unhealthy buildings are having a negative impact on society, both in terms of wellbeing and life expectancy, and in terms of lost productivity and cost to the NHS.
“It’s crucial that governments put healthy housing on the agenda, particularly when there is pressure on housing shortages, meaning a cross-department approach. Our seminar today brings together experts from a range of backgrounds including architecture, planning, design and local government to look at ways that we can work together to ensure our current and future buildings are maximising people’s health, wellbeing and productivity.”