While Europeans are very concerned about the indoor climate in their homes, this concern only has a very limited effect on behaviour.
All Europeans ventilate their homes. But homes are ventilated much more during summer, when ventilation prevents overheating, than during winter, when wellbeing becomes a trade-off between fresh air, temperature and energy costs. The drop in airing out during the wintertime is substantial, even in homes where the occupants are very concerned with a healthy indoor climate.
These facts imply two things. First, the right behaviour might not be directed by a deep understanding of the actual benefits of a healthy home. The primary motivation for airing out may be the immediate feeling of wellbeing, not a concern about health. This may also explain the widespread practice of drying clothes indoors, as this can take place in a remote part of the house or behind closed doors, where the negative impact on wellbeing is incorrectly believed to be eliminated.
The overall risk for developing asthma is approximately twice as high for people living in homes with mould or damp, even if this is in a clothes-drying area in the basement and far from the living room. Second, as long as the cognitive link between poor indoor environment and illness, fatigue, asthma and allergies etc. is weak, Europeans will only act when costs are low. As soon as it becomes difficult or costly to obtain a good indoor environment, e.g. during winter, behaviour changes.
Better indoor environment in European homes depends on increased knowledge and awareness about the importance of occupants’ behaviour and solutions from the building industry and architects to make it easy to ventilate and get daylight.
Source: Healthy Homes Barometer 2015, An annual study of European citizens’ attitudes and behaviour regarding
home comfort, energy consumption and environmental impact, The Healthy Homes Barometer is accompanied academically by Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernd Wegener, Humboldt University Berlin.