Experts in construction, engineering, architecture, the environment and public health gathered to share insights and commence a healthy homes research project.

Healthy Homes Ireland (HHI), supported by VELUX and the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC), held its first forum meeting at the Gibson Hotel, Dublin, recently and heard from leading experts on the subject of healthy homes.

Advance provision of greener and healthier Irish homes

The forum was aimed at gaining new insights that will advance the provision of greener and healthier Irish homes. By bringing together those with an interest in, and responsibility for, delivering greener, healthier homes in Ireland, HHI aims to both develop evidence-based policy solutions that can be presented to government and improve understanding among policymakers of what is a healthy home and how to achieve it.

HHI is led by a high-level steering group of 14 industry practitioners and academics. Members of the steering group were joined by more than 40 experts in construction, engineering, architecture, public health and the environment.

They participated in an engaging workshop, designed to gather feedback on the definition of a healthy home and consult on a research project the forum has commissioned CBRE to undertake. The research will investigate the extent to which current public policy, building industry practice and other factors help or hinder the achievement of healthy homes.

It aims to identify those areas that should be prioritised and inform recommendations to government. To inspire discussion, the HHI forum kicked off with a thought-provoking presentation from Nick Baker of the London-based Architectural Association School of Architecture.

Along with former colleague Professor Koen Steemers of Cambridge University Baker recently co-authored Healthy Homes: Designing with light and air for sustainability and wellbeing. This book explores how the design of indoor environments can be designed for human health and wellbeing.

Participants also heard from Dr Marie Coggins, senior lecturer at NUI Galway and Müge Karasahin, digital sustainability and wellness lead at Ethos Engineering. Dr Coggins, one of Ireland’s leading experts on indoor environmental quality, was recently featured on the Healthy Homes episode of 10 Things You Need to Know About on RTÉ One.

Karasahin’s work involves creating intelligent residential and commercial buildings that verify sustainability and human health and wellness targets through proven data. Karasahin is an accredited professional by the International WELL Building Institute.

Speaking after the forum’s first meeting, chair of Healthy Homes Ireland, Kevin O’Rourke said: “There are many factors that make a home a healthy place, a quality place.

"The main purpose of this first meeting has been to consult on the full range of what is meant by a healthy home and to help set the priorities for the research CBRE has been commissioned to undertake. This is the first step in the nine-month project.

"The event has exceeded our expectations. We were delighted by the expert insights from our speakers and the quality of the discussion they inspired.

'Improving energy efficiency'

"Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and making them healthier must go hand in hand. While decarbonising our homes is critical to reach our climate targets, health risks from poor indoor air quality, insufficient light, damp, and noise pollution must also be addressed.”

Head of sustainability at CBRE Ireland Rachael McGinley said: “The Healthy Homes Ireland research, being undertaken by CBRE Ireland, will help inform future policy and practice that delivers greener and healthier homes for the people of Ireland.

“Today’s workshop session allowed forum members to hear from the CBRE Ireland team on the project timelines and deliverables and provided an opportunity for members to give initial input into the research which was hugely valuable. It marks an important first step in this research .”

The next meeting of the Healthy Homes Ireland forum will take place later this year when members will consider the initial findings of the research conducted by CBRE Ireland. A final report, which is expected to be published in March 2023, will make a series of policy recommendations to government.