The importance of a healthy home

This year’s World Health Day theme, ‘My health, my right,’ has inspired us to discuss the importance of a healthy home, and how the quality of our homes’ insulation plays a crucial role in both our individual and collective wellbeing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines ‘healthy housing’ as “shelter that supports a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.”1 This includes the structural integrity of the home, and its ability to regulate temperatures to a comfortable and healthy level, protect from pollutants, promote good air quality, and protect from the elements and excess moisture.

In their 2018 report, “WHO Housing and Health Guidelines,” they outlined key health risks that threaten wellbeing in our homes. Many of these risks can be avoided or, in the case of existing dwellings, mitigated, by using good quality (and correctly installed) insulation as a part of a holistic approach to building design and the construction of the building envelope. Addressing these health risks is critically important given the amount of time we spend at home: the average person in a higher-income nation spends about 70% of time at home.1

Insulation benefits such as energy efficiency, thermal performance, protection from the elements, indoor air quality improvements, condensation management and acoustic performance can help to create a healthy home to enjoy for years to come.

Low indoor temperature

Cold indoor temperatures increase the risk of, or worsening of, respiratory conditions such as infections and asthma attacks, cardiovascular conditions such as higher blood pressure and strokes, and is associated with poorer mental health.

WHO recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18ºC for wellbeing, however they suggest that a higher minimum may be needed for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and anyone suffering from chronic illness.1 During winter, excess mortality is greater in more temperate climates, because while these locations have less severe winters, they tend to have improperly insulated, colder homes.1

Weatherisation and retrofitting insulation to improve the energy and thermal efficiency of existing dwellings has direct physical and mental health benefits for households, as well as co-benefits that improve overall wellbeing such as energy and healthcare cost savings and improved feelings of social connectedness from having a warmer home.2

High indoor temperatures

Indoor temperatures that are too hot are also recognised as being detrimental to our health. This is especially so in situations where there is high humidity or unstable temperature fluctuations due to their effect on the body’s ability to cool itself.1 While there has not been as much focus on the direct impact of high indoor temperatures on health, concern for and research on the topic is growing because of climate change and the increasing occurrences of extreme heatwaves.

Currently, high indoor temperatures are considered to cause thermal discomfort and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses in much the same way as high outdoor temperatures. Negative health impacts include emotional distress, poor sleep, dehydration, heatstroke and “higher rates of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality and emergency hospitalisations.”1

In particular, indoor temperatures that are unstable and have high variation from usual temperatures (such as in a heatwave) don’t allow the body to properly adjust and self-regulate, and can cause harm to the cardiovascular and immune systems as well as further increasing chance of mortality.1 Again, vulnerable populations, particularly elderly people and those living in social housing, are at higher risk for adverse effects from high temperatures.2

The recommended maximum indoor temperature in homes is more difficult to estimate due to dependencies on factors such as relative humidity, geography and household demographics, but housing with high-performing building envelopes that provide excellent thermal regulation and protection from extreme weather events is crucial to reducing adverse health outcomes caused or made worse by high indoor temperatures.1

Indoor air quality

As one can imagine, indoor air quality plays a vital role in the health of our homes. Poor indoor air quality is linked to many conditions ranging from allergies and irritations of the skin, eyes nose or throat, to negative effects on various physiological systems, and even cancer.1

Promoting and sustaining good indoor air quality comes down to a balance between a multitude of factors both within the home and outside of it.3 A high performing building envelope paired with appropriate ventilation, protects the household from outdoor pollutants such as pollen, dust and vehicle emissions. Good quality insulation, installed according to the holistic environmental needs of each home, regulates indoor temperatures, reducing reliance on CO2 emitting heating and cooling systems (especially gas). Choosing building materials that do not contain harmful levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) also helps to sustain safe and healthy air inside the home.

Damp and mould

Along with unhealthy indoor temperatures and air quality, moisture inside the home can wreak havoc and compromise household health, especially when it leads to mould. There has been a lack of research for the true extent of mould-affected housing in Australia, however it is estimated to be anywhere from 10-50%, and can affect “all housing types and climate zones”.4

Damp and mould inside the home is associated with a range of negative health effects such as asthma, allergies, and a biotoxin-related illness know as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).5 WHO states that “there is no exposure value for mould growth that can be considered safe for health.”1

Structural integrity, protection from the outdoor environment, indoor temperature regulation, indoor humidity control, condensation management and ventilation are core functions of a “well-designed, well-constructed and well-maintained building envelope”1 that inhibit damp and mould growth.


Excess environmental noise has numerous negative physical, physiological and psychological effects including auditory issues, sleep disturbance, annoyance and stress, cognitive impairment, and cardiovascular disease, with long-term exposure being especially harmful.1 Indoor noise can come from a number of sources such as heating/cooling systems and appliances. There are many sources of excessive outdoor noise. The most widely researched contributors are road, rail and air traffic, becoming worse with population growth and the spread of urban activities.1,2 A building envelope design that takes acoustic performance into consideration can reduce noise significantly and provide a more serene and healthy indoor environment.6

Incorporating Health into Housing Design

While there is much greater focus now on energy efficiency, thermal comfort and sustainability, way we approach building design and construction, doesn’t yet prioritise the health and wellbeing of the household. At Fletcher Insulation, we recognise that it is all connected, and a holistic approach to improving the quality of the building envelope has many direct and indirect benefits to both people and the planet.

You can learn more about our Building Solutions and the benefits they provide for Houses here, and Multi-Residential housing here.



  1. World Health Organization, (2018), WHO Housing and health guidelines, Geneva: Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO,
  2. Victorian Government, Sustainability Victoria, (2022), Victorian Healthy Homes Program research findings,
  3. Rajagopalan, P. et al., (2023), Enhancing home thermal efficiency. Final report of Opportunity Assessment for research theme H2, prepared for RACE for 2030 CRC,
  4. Coulburn L and Miller W., (2022), Prevalence, Risk Factors and Impacts Related to Mould-Affected Housing: An Australian Integrative Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2022 Feb 7;19(3):1854. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19031854. PMID: 35162876; PMCID: PMC8835129,
  5. Australian Government, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, (2018), Report on the Inquiry into Biotoxin-related Illnesses in Australia, ISBN 978-1-74366-851-1, October 2018, Canberra.
  6. Yang, W. and Jeon JY,(2020), Design strategies and elements of building envelope for urban acoustic environment, Building and Environment, Volume 182, 2020, 107121, ISSN 0360-1323,