Kiwis are stuck in unhealthy homes during lockdown


Living and working from home, especially while locked, may not be good for your health.

Brandon Van Blerk, CEO of building performance technology company Tether, said an outdated New Zealand building code means most of us live in homes that don’t hold heat and are poorly ventilated.

“Establishing healthy living standards was a good first step, but New Zealand building codes urgently need an update if the country’s poor statistics on respiratory health are to be reversed,” said Van Blerk.

While the government accepts public submissions to the Building Code annually, the 2004 Building Code legislation has not been updated for nearly two decades.

Given the rising rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases in New Zealand, Van Blerk said both the code and the law are long overdue.

Tether is a native New Zealand technology company that makes a range of software and hardware products designed, developed and manufactured from the ground up in New Zealand. The company’s performance verification solutions enable data-driven insights into building performance through modeling, monitoring, and data analysis.

“Building codes are slowly being updated to improve critical factors like the thermal efficiency of houses. But until those rules are changed, developers will continue to build as cheaply as possible.”

A drastic revision of housing standards does not mean adapting to Canada, the US or Europe, where temperatures can drop below freezing. New Zealand deserves a unique approach, but it can still learn from these other jurisdictions.

“New Zealand’s inferior housing is the victim of our temperate climate. Building codes here are generally 30 years behind standards in the US, Canada, and Europe.

“I am optimistic that the government will make a good decision and put some of the requirements the sector needs into law, such as better insulation, ventilation and glazing.

“Things will change once the updates are complete. But even then, it will be important to measure the success of these changes, even if the models predict that they will improve health and efficiency, ”he said.

Changes to the building code cannot be made early enough.

According to the Asthma Foundation, more than 600,000 kiwifruit are taking medicines for respiratory diseases, while 2,922 people die from various diseases each year. Asthma alone costs New Zealand $ 1 billion in public and private medical costs.

Van Blerk said the incidence of respiratory illnesses is often due to people living in poorly built homes resulting from currently relaxed building standards.

“Most people are exposed to terrible air in their homes and terrible air in their homes. This is why asthma and respiratory diseases are so high. People simply cannot evade the causes.

“Simply put, kiwi houses are not built to properly deal with poor environmental quality. The sensors from Tether prove that many houses are contaminated with particles such as broken dust, pollen or car exhaust due to temperature fluctuations and large amounts of relative humidity, “said Van Blerk.

But until the building code changes, says Van Blerk, there are a handful of things homeowners and landlords can do to improve the health of their homes.

1. Tighten the thermal envelope

This is a fancy way of saying, “Make sure you have control over what goes in and out of your home all year round,” said Van Blerk.

The exact upgrade of a home will of course depend on the particular home, including the local climate, number of bedrooms, ventilation, windows, heating, exhaustion, appliances, and other factors. The house is a complex system.

“But as a starting point, improving the insulation of floors, walls and ceilings is an important change. Single-glazed windows also have a massive impact on the thermal performance of buildings, so consider upgrading to double-glazed instead, ”said Van Blerk.

2. Better ventilation

The current impact of poor ventilation and humidity control on a home can be calculated, Van Blerk said, and the right solution could be to set up a balanced ventilation system provided by a number of reputable ventilation companies.

However, the solution might not have to be this drastic.

For example, if a bathroom keeps fogging up while taking a shower, it means the range hood is not working properly. Instead of buying a new fan, Van Blerk suggested placing a dome over the shower to trap the steam and dry the bathroom.

“There are hundreds of cheap, small procedures that humans can perform. After all, doing a good job to achieve optimal health can be expensive, ”he said.

3. Pay attention to the gap

The poor quality of New Zealand homes often results in thousands of small gaps being found between the frames, windows, floors and ceiling, which means the house is leaking air like a sieve.

Closing as many of these gaps as possible can dramatically improve the thermal comfort of a home and reduce the likelihood of respiratory disease while lowering heating bills.

“There is no point in heating a box full of holes like most houses are. The heat will simply escape and drive up the electricity bill. There are lots of people who can do to fix minor issues like loopholes, ”said Blerk.

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