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Using Planning Conditions to Improve Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) of New Residential Developments

Nick Conlan has done a lot of digging through planning applications in London – looking at 160 applications for major developments submitted between 2014 and 2017.  This paper includes a review of those planning applications to determine which consider noise and which consider overheating – both essential parts of the overall internal environmental quality (IEQ).  Of the applications reviewed, 122 out of the 160 applications had both noise and overheating assessments; in 85% of these the noise assessment assumed closed windows for reasonable noise conditions, while the overheating assessment assumed open windows to provide reasonable thermal conditions.  The result is residential accommodation in which the occupants may choose either acoustic comfort or thermal comfort, but not achieve both aspects of internal environmental quality (IEQ) simultaneously. This paper provides the quantitative data to confirm the problem that was widely known in the industry; it demonstrates the need for the integrated and holistic consideration of internal environmental conditions as described in the Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating Guide, and outlines how this can be achieved within the current planning regulatory environment.

The risk of overheating is exacerbated by climate breakdown and the move towards better insulated, more airtight, often lightweight buildings with large areas of glazing.  Heightened risk means that many modern residential buildings require windows to be open for longer periods in the year to mitigate overheating, compared with older buildings.  The need to consider residential development on noisier sites, particularly in urban areas, means that new dwellings may also be subject to high environmental noise levels.  CIBSE TM60 – Good practice in the design of homes describes the need to consider integrated design, and notes that early consideration is often required to achieve passive design solutions.

This paper highlights the need for consistency between the noise and overheating assessments regarding the assumptions of window operation and it proposes how planning conditions can be used to produce aligned noise and overheating assessments.  This is essential to provide the necessary steer to the housing development industry to design new developments that meet not only high standards of energy performance but also comfort for the occupants, concerning both thermal and acoustic comfort.  Both energy performance and comfort are necessary to enable resilient new dwellings that may contribute to sustainable development.

A second problem concerns the lack of mandatory limits to noise from mechanical ventilation in the UK Building Regulations. However, noise can be a significant constraint to the use of the ventilation systems, as occupants turn off noisy equipment. Without adequate ventilation in modern airtight dwellings, air quality can have a significantly adverse effect on the health of the occupants. This paper includes a review of available research on noise limits from mechanical services and discusses how the limits proposed within the AVO Guide could be applied to planning conditions.

Download the full paper here.
Download the presentation slides here.
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