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Sunday20 August 2017

Housing designers urged to tackle TB

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Architects could become part of the solution to tackling the spread of tuberculosis in Britain, a charity has claimed

American-founded Archive (Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments) has launched a new initiative linking housing standards and TB in the north-west London borough of Brent, which is believed to have the highest rates of the disease in the capital.

Peter Williams
“We want to prioritise housing design as a key strategy for improving health”
Peter Williams

The Happy Healthy Housing partnership, which includes NHS Brent, highlights the re-emergence of TB — an infectious bacterial disease — in London and the rest of the country and its links to housing and poor ventilation in particular.

Every year, more than 8,000 new cases of TB are reported in the UK. In 2008, nearly 40% of these were in London.

The director of Archive, architect Peter Williams, called on the profession to engage with the charity, revealing he was already in discussions with practices including AHMM on how they could work together.

He said low-tech architectural responses could have an impact, particularly given that improvements in the flow of air and change of air within a property can reduce transmission of TB by as much as 80%.

“We want to prioritise housing design as a key strategy for improving health,” he said. “Combating poor housing and living conditions can be a discreet but highly effective way of tackling this disease.”

He added that methods of adapting existing houses pioneered by the charity in Haiti could be adopted in Brent.

Cath Noakes, reader in infection control engineering at Leeds University, agreed that introducing good ventilation was key to tackling the disease, adding that increasing levels of air-tightness on low-energy homes could present a further problem.

“Architects could have a role in this,” she said. “There is a danger that people focus too much on efficiency and air-tightness. Of course this is important, but you do need ventilation.”

TB occurs mainly in refugee and migrant communities. To mark World TB day last week, Archive met community, council and NHS leaders, with a further meeting held in Wembley on Tuesday as BD went to press.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Adequate sunlight is also necessary to combat TB, rickets, and other diseases. Until the 1980s there were minuimum window sizes included in Building Regulations, but the drive to save energy has led to very small windows and gloomy rooms. The lessons of the 1950s have been forgotten, where large picture windows were installed in housing, partly to help overcome TB and rickets!

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  • Heat exchange ventilation systems are the way to go to get fresh air into a building without losing the heat. This is a dangerous disease though, even a reduction of infection rates by 80% would still mean that people could die from it, wouldn't it be better to up vaccination rates? There are already multiple antibiotic resistant strains emerging so TB is becoming increasingly hard to treat, it's much better not to get it in the first place.

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  • Heat recovery ventilation also has health benefits by removing indoor pollution and moisture that causes mould. But for TB, stopping people spitting would be a better start than waiting until everybody's house gets vented up though. It's gross round my way, people gobbing up phlegm all the time.

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