I appreciate the work Germán Molina is doing to get his PhD findings out into the world. I’ve linked to work he’s publishing on his blog, Buildings for People, before. A recent post argues the case for handing responsibility for the Building Code to the Ministry of Health. A novel idea. I’m not convinced but I agree with his evidence.
He makes two fundamental points about adding insulation to homes (like the H1 Code update specifies). First, improved thermal performance mostly benefits people’s health. For some reason industry acts as if it’s happy to ignore this. For instance, the research that was done to support the modest H1 improvements set the health benefits at zero. Yes, zero.
Second, in actuality it’s the energy (and carbon) savings that will be near zero until such time as building performance is significantly improved. Most folks have a budget for heating costs and spend only that amount, even if it’s inadequate in terms of comfort and health. Only when their home is so efficient that their budget is enough to heat it all the time everywhere, do they start saving energy and carbon.
Head over to read the whole post, but here’s an excerpt from Germán’s very well referenced argument:
“For example, 99% of the estimated benefits of subsidising insulation and clean heating in New Zealand were associated with people’s health. Something similar happens in Denmark, where homes are labelled from A to G based on their estimated energy consumption. The evidence in that country shows that while a better label implies a lower consumption in the highest end of the spectrum (A to D), dwellings with labels D to G all seem to consume the same. This suggests that the benefits of improving homes from G to D will not reduce their energy consumption but improve their levels of comfort and health. Finally, just like I mentioned in another blog post, similar results have been documented in Belgium.
In conclusion, the main benefit of improving the quality of homes—at least in those countries with a not-very-highly-[performing] housing stock—is not related to energy but to health. Therefore, it is the Ministry of Health [which] should be in charge of Building Codes. This is especially true in countries with a strong healthcare system, as this ministry will see direct financial benefits as a consequence of people’s health improvements.”