New Government White Paper lays the foundations for healthy homes and buildings

Nov 3rd 2018

An all-party parliamentary group for has just published a new report shedding light on the many problems caused to our nation’s health and economy as a result of people living and working in unhealthy homes and buildings. Houses and buildings that cause or exacerbate health conditions cost the economy and society each and every year.

This manifests itself in healthy life years, in reliance and use of healthcare services, educational attendance and attainment, and work productivity and absenteeism.

The executive summary of the report states: “It is only by taking a holistic approach to delivering healthy homes and buildings that the real benefits can be realised; otherwise we risk making gains by tackling one issue, simply to lose them again by failing to tackle another. It is essential we continue to strive for energy efficient homes that reduce carbon emissions and energy bills, as well as ensuring that we are reducing the health burden too.

“By tackling the numerous health and wellbeing issues in UK homes and buildings, we have a real opportunity to create and use buildings to promote positive health and wellbeing, make savings in healthcare costs, increase educational attainment, improve productivity and allow our citizens to lead longer, healthier and happier lives.”

The White Paper ‘Building our Future. Laying the Foundations for Healthy Homes and Buildings‘ lays out a list of recommendations that detail how, as a nation, healthy homes and buildings can and should be delivered.

Recommendation 1
Government need to establish a cross departmental committee for health and buildings to champion change; recognising the interaction between buildings, health, education and the economy.
Recommendation 2
Grow the research and evidence base, starting with a focus on housing and schools, to develop a clear case for further Government action to improve standards for new build.
Recommendation 3
Make renovation of current housing stock and infrastructure a Government priority and develop plans for retrofitting that takes a holistic approach to maximising health and wellbeing.

The cost of unhealthy homes
The effects of poor housing on the NHS in 2010, in terms of the first-year treatment costs of specific health hazards, was estimated to be at least £1.4bn per year in the poorest housing in England and to be £2.5bn per year when considering all housing throughout the
entirety of the UK3. In reality, the associated costs are estimated to add at least two-and- a-half times this number. There will be other losses to society of poor housing, such as the impact on educational attainment and economic performance.

But the economic cost is only half of the story, the true cost lies in human misery and lives lost. In short, living, working or occupying unhealthy homes and buildings directly and negatively impacts human health – causing serious health effects, aggravating existing conditions and in the extreme, leading to unnecessary deaths.

Read the full report of evidence and findings.