Comment: A healthy house should be a basic human right

As we mark Scottish Housing Day on 18 September and the issue of housing as a human right is debated, it’s my firm belief that having not just a house, but a “healthy house”, should be a basic human right for all homeowners and tenants.

It is not uncommon to hear of people living with damp and mould, says Ralston. Picture: contributed.

Sadly, this is often not the case.

People are often completely unaware that the property they are living in can in fact be damaging to their health. For example, there is now clear evidence to show a connection between damp and mouldy homes and the emergence of asthma attacks in young children.

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A major new study was recently published in the journal Indoor Air from researchers at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand, which proved this to be the case. It has been widely known that damp and mould can make asthma worse for people already living with the condition, but this is one of the first studies to prove mould could be causing asthma to develop.

Air quality and subsequent respiratory issues are high up on the agenda at iOpt. Hearing how mould and damp can affect a child’s health so significantly is shocking, but it is not uncommon to hear of people living with damp and mould in their properties.

With changes in building regulations coming into force over the next couple of years, it will eventually become compulsory for all new build properties to have CO2 sensors in bedrooms.

The implementation of regulations like this will go some way to improving the health of tenants in the UK, but there is still a long way to go and we want to continue making a difference to the people affected through enabling asset-managers to have more visibility of the condition of their properties.

What is key for property-owners is how our technology can provide an early warning sign of potential issues. Tackle issues like damp and mould as early as possible, and tenants’ quality of life as well as the value of the asset can improve.

iOpt specialises in technologies that enable the internal environment of assets to be monitored remotely. When we think of air pollution, many people’s first thoughts tend to go towards car fuel emissions, which are obviously a major environmental issue.

Far less consider the toxins they may be exposed to within the home. iOpt’s bespoke algorithms and machine-learning techniques allow us to predict when and where issues such as mould growth will arise, allowing preventative intervention before health issues escalate, as well as potential repair costs.

Owners and managers of large rental property portfolios are key to ensuring the air their tenants’ breathe is healthy and safe.

We are delighted to be working in partnership with Maryhill Housing, the Scottish Government, Censis and full-fibre broadband provider Hyperoptic, to deliver the most technologically advanced housing in Scotland.

Three blocks of flats in Glasgow’s Maryhill area, which contain 360 homes, have been fitted with cutting-edge Internet of Things technology, free-of-charge high-speed fibre optic broadband and a community facility that offers free digital inclusion classes.

Some of these flats now use iOpt technology that monitors temperature, humidity and CO2 levels and as a result will be able to identify and nip issues in the bud, such as mould and damp, which can have an adverse impact on the health of those living within the flats.

Scottish Housing Day is a celebration of the positive impact that good quality housing makes to the lives of people and communities, and I’m eager to see how the new inhabitants of the Maryhill flats respond to their new living environment.

I’m also excited about the future of our company and how our technology has the potential to improve the lives of those who live within rental or social housing properties, and how having a healthy home as a basic human right could become a reality for everyone, not only in Scotland, but all around the world.

Dane Ralston, founder & MD of iOpt