Making mould a thing of the past

June 4, 2019

Mould, mildew and damp cause misery for thousands of people in homes across the UK, and cost housing associations, landlords and homeowners millions of pounds a year in repairs. Now researchers at Northumbria University have come up with a solution that could lead to a change in how homes are designed in the future

Over the last year, Northumbria academics, along with partners from BIM Academy and the National Energy Foundation, have been working with local housing organisation Your Homes Newcastle to find out more about how its customers live in their homes.

With permission from customers, sensors were placed in seven apartments, monitoring factors such as electricity usage, room temperature, humidity, light and how householders move around the rooms within the building.

The data gathered can be used to understand how customers use buildings, provide alerts and advice, which will help them live more comfortably, and influence the design of buildings to reflect customers’ requirements better.

The findings of the Smart Connected Buildings project were recently presented at the annual BIM Show Live conference by Dr Kay Rogage, research fellow in Digital Living at Northumbria and an active member of the university’s BIM Academy research team.

She explains: “One of the benefits of this system is that it can be customised for landlords so they can monitor and identify conditions which lead to mould and mildew early on, before they develop, which could potentially minimise the costs incurred in treating the problem, significantly reducing the number of complaints and providing more comfortable living conditions for tenants.”

The project has been funded by Innovate UK, with the aim of integrating building design information, sensor data and feedback from building users to produce meaningful alerts and advice to builders and owners.

The team involved now hope to source additional funding to develop the prototype into a commercial grade software, which could be used by housing associations, property owners, developers and others working within the housing and building sector.

The prototype would include additional features, such as the ability to extract data from Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) reports – used by the Government to assess and compare the energy and environmental performance of homes.

BIM Academy director Graham Kelly says: “Buildings can create huge amounts of data once they are in use and the Smart Connected Buildings project aims to collect this and use it to generate advice on how to optimise the performance of a building once complete and inform future design and construction.”

Ian Gallagher, assistant director operational property services at Your Homes Newcastle, adds: “As the managing agent for Newcastle City Council’s housing stock, we want to provide homes where people are warm and comfortable, are able to control the environment they live in, and can rely on us to proactively avoid problems such as mould, damp and condensation.

“We recognise that sensors and data can help us achieve this, so we were very happy to work with Kay and her colleagues to develop the Smart Connected Buildings model. We look forward to seeing where this can go, how customers can benefit and how we can assist in developing it further.”

Northumbria University
Northumbria University has specialised in Building Information Modelling since 2010 and offers a range of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction CPD.
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