Relationships between Passive Solar Design, Air Quality and. Well-being in Glasgow Housing

C. D. A. Porteous and J. W. Fung

Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow G3 6RQ, UK

email : c. porteous@gsa. ac. uk


This paper examines the evidence of four housing case studies in Glasgow, two with specific passive solar features and two without; and also makes some reference to further non-solar housing in the city. The aim is twofold: firstly to ascertain if there is an apparent association between sunlight/energy-efficiency attributes and other physical environmental indicators such as temperature (comfort) CO2 and humidity (air quality and risk of mould or dust mite propagation); secondly to do the same in relation to perceived stress, positive and negative affectivity, and health/wellbeing. Associations are apparent comparing two tower blocks (one solar, one non-solar) in the same urban context, but are less clear for the two medium rise case studies even though respective urban contexts are again similar. The solar tower block also had the lowest values for CO2 in a total set of twelve case studies; and there was an apparent trend for access to sunlight to be reflected in lower perceived stress and higher positive affectivity. The paper concludes that this aspect of solar design deserves further in­depth study.

Keywords: Passive solar; sunspaces; air quality; humidity; stress, affectivity, well­being.

1. Introduction

This study, focuses on high-rise and medium-rise housing in urban locations in Glasgow, and relates to PhD work with a larger set, including low-rise examples, which has been carried out under the supervision of the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit (MEARU). In the last century and a half sustainability for social housing has moved from an almost exclusively public health agenda, through one motivated almost solely by numbers built and cost, and now to one where energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions have become the core priority — as long as costs can be contained within bounds deemed fit by politicians of course. However, health and well-being have also returned as crucial issues, perhaps driven in particular by the seemingly relentless rise in incidence of asthma and resurgence of fuel poverty.

Interestingly, a parallel resurgence has been the recent research into the health benefits of sunlight. Just over 130 years ago, research demonstrated the disinfectant properties of sunlight through glass (blue part of visible spectrum passes through glass) [1], which was therefore, very relevant for buildings. Such benefits were confirmed during WW2 when the increase in respiratory infections in wards where windows had sunshine blocked (blast barriers in wartime) was attributed to bacteria (haemolytic streptococci) in dust — direct sunlight had strongest bactericidal effect, but strong diffuse light still capable of killing bacteria [2]. In the last few years, hospital-based research on postoperative medication use has explored the psychosomatic effect of sunlight on patients undergoing spinal surgery [3]; building on work ten and twelve years ago that respectively found an evident link between

sunshine indoors and recovery from heart attacks and an equivalent link to recovery from severe non-seasonal depression [4, 5].

Hence, the main agenda of this paper is to examine the psychosocial issues of perceived stress and positive and negative affectivity related to solar attributes of housing, together with physical environmental issues — in particular, indoor air quality and humidity, the latter with regard to dust mite propagation. Health/well-being is also measured via perceived frequency of ailments.

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