Cooking steaks on the barbecue, mowing the lawn or taking a walk in the countryside – all normal summer pursuits for many people. But, for hay fever sufferers, the thought of uncut grass sends them rushing indoors. Over 15 million people in the UK have hay fever and 95% are allergic to grass pollen. But what’s the alternative to a summer of sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes apart from a box of tissues, antihistamine tablets or moving to the Sahara Desert? Believe it or not, building a new home with “hay fever prevention features” may be part of the answer.
“Triple-glazed windows are very effective at keeping grass pollen out of the house in the first place but a unique ventilation system makes the biggest impact. The hay fever sufferer then has a ‘pollen free oasis’ to live in,” explains Portadown architect Paul McAlister, Northern Ireland’s first Passive House Designer.
A Passive House is a specific approach to energy efficient homes, originating in Germany (Passivhaus). The key features are super insulation, extreme airtightness, triple-glazing and a mechanical ventilation system.
“One of the key features of a Passive House is the airtightness requirement meaning windows do not need to be opened for fresh air. Instead, a clever system called Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery supplies and circulates fresh filtered air 365 days per year. The filters used are very fine and they stop minute particles of pollen from getting into the house making it a ‘pollen-free zone’ for the hay fever sufferer.”
Up to 80% savings in energy costs can be made by living in a Passive House even though the ventilation system uses electricity as a power source. Heat is collected from the air leaving the house and this energy is then reused to heat incoming fresh air.
“I find the summer months a real challenge whether I’m indoors or outdoors, “ commented James Ervine, a chronic hay fever sufferer from Bangor. “Even though I shut the windows and remain in a cocoon for several months, my eyes still itch and my nose runs. The Passive House design sounds ideal for someone with my condition and I will definitely consider this approach when I build a new home in a few years’ time.”
So watching the high pressure settling over Northern Ireland doesn’t have to bring tears to the eyes of the hay fever sufferer any longer. If you’re planning to build a new house and struggle with hay fever every summer, it’s well worth investigating the Passive House technology.
Author Paul McAlister