Healthy buildings for a healthy city: Is the public health evidence base informing current building policies?

Laurence Carmichael, Emily Prestwood, Rachael Marsh, Janet Ige, Ben Williams, Paul Pilkington, Eleanor Eaton, Aleksandra Michalec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


Research has demonstrated that housing quality is a key urban intervention in reducing health risks and improving climate resilience, addressing a key ambition of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Yet housing quality remains a problem even in high income countries such as England. In particular, hazards such as excess cold, excess heat and lack of ventilation leading to damp and mould have been identified as a major issue in homes. Research shows that these hazards can lead to a range of health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, infections and mental health problems. This article explores the use of public health research and evidence in policy to regulate new buildings in England to deliver improved public health, climate resilience and a reduced carbon footprint, in particular exploring the policy drivers and awareness of the public health evidence. Findings show that public health evidence is hardly referenced in policy and that the focus on other evidence bases such as on climate mitigation in building regulations results in both positive and negative impacts on health. This reflects a lack of a systems approach around urban interventions leading to weaknesses in standards regulating the private development sector. In conclusion, this paper recommends: 1. the consideration of health impact in future building regulations; 2. the integration and coordination of key policies covering various scales and phases of the development processes and 3. the better education of residents to understand advances in new energy performance technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137146
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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