New partnership to study building dampness launches

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A partnership between two organisations will investigate the causes behind excessive moisture in buildings…

The Property Care Association (PCA) and UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (UCL IEDE) have formed a new partnership to investigate dampness in buildings.

The two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will see the trade body and university examine the causes of excessive moisture in the built environment, drawing upon the expertise of both organisations to collect, analyse, and develop data.

Among the factors that will be taken into account during the investigation will be the lifestyle of the occupants of the building, the structure and its condition, and the climate.

The UCL IEDE team, which will be led by building scientist Dr Hector Altamirano, will work with the PCA to develop a diagnostic tool and create a strategy for remediation works.

Funding for the KTP has come in the form of a grant from the government’s innovation agency Innovate UK. The PCA will also invest in the delivery of the programme.

PCA’s chief executive Steve Hodgson said: “Inappropriate moisture levels in buildings are considered to be the cause of the majority of all building failures.

“Evidence from multiple sources seems to indicate that such failures and problems may be changing and increasing.

“However, there are many complexities and interactions, as well as much uncertainty in regard to the extent of the problem, its effects and causes.

“There is therefore an urgent need for the development of robust assessment protocols and a diagnostic tool to address the problem.”

The partnership will also help future buildings, as the analysis can be used to identify why moisture problems develop and create a framework to prevent this going forward.

“There are considerable societal and environmental benefits which will come from this project,” said Hodgson.

“The issue currently affects both the health of householders and buildings’ durability, appearance and value.

“The setting of benchmarks for acceptable levels of moisture can be used to drive regulation and compliance across the industry; and the longer term understanding of moisture in buildings will have wider effects on policy, guidance and practice in all built environment areas.”

Dr Altamirano said: “Research in the built environment domain is dominated by modelling and is often not sufficiently centred on real life case studies.

“The partnership with PCA will deliver a totally unique opportunity for UCL IEDE to partner with a professional organisation which can collect real world data from hundreds of occupied homes. PCA members can not only gather the data but have the ability to contextualise this information.

“The PCA understands the basic principles of moisture-related problems in buildings and the methods for addressing them.

“However moisture-related building problems are highly complex and can involve multiple interactions between building elements, services, occupant behaviour, building condition, climate, and a number of other factors over long periods.

“This complexity and the uncertainty surrounding it, is well understood but as yet there are no standardised or industry methods for dealing with it.”

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