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Thermal performance and indoor air quality in new, medium density houses – Auckland, New Zealand

Roger Clive Birchmore (Department of Engineering and Construction, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Terri-Ann Berry (Department of Engineering and Construction, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Shannon L. Wallis (Department of Engineering and Construction, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Steve Tsai (Department of Engineering and Construction, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
German Hernandez (Department of Engineering and Construction, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation

ISSN: 2398-4708

Article publication date: 16 May 2022

Issue publication date: 8 March 2023

163

Abstract

Purpose

New Zealand’s historical housing stock comprises largely single-storey detached houses, characterised by poor winter comfort with high air infiltration. Challenges with affordability and land use are shifting New Zealand’s housing stock towards double-storey, conjoined medium-density housing (MDH). Reduced external surfaces in this typology should reduce winter heat loss and infiltration, improving winter comfort and health. New concerns arise, however, regarding summertime overheating and poor indoor air quality.

Design/methodology/approach

A field study was undertaken where temperature, humidity, airtightness, particulate matter (PM) and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) were measured in two unoccupied, newly built double-storey, conjoined houses, for several weeks over summer.

Findings

The reduced surface area of this typology did not reduce infiltration and demonstrated significant periods of overheating. Internal PM concentrations generally exceeded outdoor concentrations but did not exceed annual average outdoor PM10 guidelines of 20 µg m-3. Infiltration factors (Finf) were closer to more traditional houses. TVOC readings varied widely, but frequently exceeded international guidelines.

Research limitations/implications

The small sample limits the applications of conclusions more widely. Recommendations to investigate a wider sample in different locations with more detailed VOC analysis over all seasons are made.

Practical implications

Improvements to internal environments cannot be guaranteed by housing typology changes alone and must still involve thoughtful environmental design.

Social implications

Housing typology changes may not improve internal living environments.

Originality/value

A move to the new MDH typology may not achieve expectations of airtightness and thermal improvement. New challenges arise from significant overheating and high TVOC levels, which may lead to new negative health effects.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

There are no acknowledgements.

Funding: This research received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. There was no external influence in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.

Citation

Birchmore, R.C., Berry, T.-A., Wallis, S.L., Tsai, S. and Hernandez, G. (2023), "Thermal performance and indoor air quality in new, medium density houses – Auckland, New Zealand", International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 279-300. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJBPA-08-2021-0110

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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