The UKCMB is an independent, not for profit, public good organisation run by University College London, the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Heriot Watt University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The UKCMB works in a rigorous and transparent manner together with partners from academia, government, industry and the public to substantially improve the way moisture risk is understood and managed in the UK.
The aim of the UKCMB is the development of a moisture-safe built environment in the UK.
Inappropriate moisture levels in buildings are considered to be the cause of the majority of all building failures including building-related occupant health problems. Evidence from research, building owners and occupants, and industry, seem to indicate that such failures and problems may be changing and increasing in some areas due to factors such as increased airtightness and insulation, fuel poverty, overcrowding and changing use of buildings. However, there are many complexities and interactions, as well as much uncertainty in regard to the extent of the problem, its effects and causes.
The understanding of moisture movement and moisture risk in buildings has developed considerably in the past few years, albeit there are still many gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge. Not only have the mechanisms of moisture movement been explored more fully but the types of buildings and applications being studied have widened (in particular the retrofit of existing buildings). At the same time there is a growing acknowledgement of the key role of moisture in the health of occupants as well as in the health of building fabric. Furthermore, the standards to which buildings are constructed and retrofitted are changing (in particular the air permeability of buildings is being reduced and traditional walls are being insulated), to a large extent as a result of changing energy standards in buildings. Building use is also changing, with more sedentary lifestyles and greater moisture production from appliances such as showers and washing machines. The changes in climate over the next century now being predicted (i.e. milder, more humid winters and greater levels of driving rain) will tend to increase moisture problems where they occur.
Government and industry is increasingly aware of these problems, with the consequence that the major standards for moisture in buildings (such as BS5250 and Part C) are currently being revised. Industry groups have commissioned reports on moisture risks in many areas. All of these however are being written in the face of huge uncertainty of methods, and lack of basic data and research.
The UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings (UKCMB) was established with the mission to the development of knowledge and support towards the causes, mechanisms and solutions (where these exist) to moisture problems. It is long overdue, but is now an urgent requirement for this country, its building owners and occupiers, and the construction (and maintenance) industry. The risks of not having such a strong focus on moisture are considerable, with damage to building fabric and occupant health affecting our heritage, resources, natural environment and personal and social wellbeing. There could be, and may already be, costs running into billions of pounds in terms of asset value, repair costs, health costs, and loss of usable facilities. There is also the potential for considerable corporate and even governmental liability, with risks to jobs, investment and policy.
The UKCMB brings together leading experts in the UK to provide an independent, authoritative, world-leading centre for research, education, guidance, training, innovation and policy-engagement in this important subject area.
The primary aim of the UK Centre for Moisture in Buildings is the development of a moisture-safe built environment in the UK.
This means buildings which suffer minimal damage to fabric, services and appearance from moisture effects, and which have minimal moisture-related adverse impacts on human health. Ideally buildings should be moisture-beneficial, providing good and comfortable environments for occupants.
As there is not currently a moisture safe built environment or any clear understanding of what this means or how it could be brought about, a consequential aim of the UKCMB is:
To substantially improve the way moisture risk is understood and managed in the UK.
An independent centre with national and international expertise, linking research, government, finance, industry and building owners/ occupiers.
While the centre will be led initially by The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources at University College London (UCL BSEER), and while research will be led by the Knowledge Partners (see below), the centre is not only or primarily an academic undertaking, but will operate also as commercial and public organisation engaged at many different levels. This is essential for it to be able to achieve its aims, as well as to ensure a viable financial model.