Moisture risks arising from retrofitting: The safest technical solution is not always the best solution

Eva B. Møller, Niels-Jørgen Aagaard

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In the coming years insulation in buildings will need to be retrofitted to save energy. The article focuses on the difficulty in choosing the best way of retrofitting the insulation as e.g. safety, aesthetics and costs are often prioritised differently in each project, depending on the context for the building and the building owner. As an example, the paper describes risks arising from retrofitting with emphasis on moisture safety, as high moisture levels may lead to health problems for the building users. The example illustrates the difficulty in obtaining moisture safety and energy savings at the same time when retrofitting by internal insulation. However, moisture-related health risks are mainly personal, as they depend i.a. on age, gender and medical history. This raises the question of whether the building owner should be allowed to choose whatever he wants, with the risk of extreme prioritisations, or whether society should ban some solutions, because they may be too risky for some building users. On the other hand, can society afford to make all retrofitting safe also for the weakest? Based on a review of literature, the paper outlines how these dilemmas are described and handled in Denmark today. The aim is to operate with a combination of information on why some solutions pose more risks than others and descriptions on how the risks are reduced. The best solution is found by weighting potential energy savings, costs, aesthetics and health risks. Consequently, the best solution is not necessarily the safest technical solution; it depends on an evaluation by the building owner or user. However, the risk is not quantified. To make the decision more objective in the future, a more quantified prioritisation might be possible by defining moisture safety classes for buildings, describing which buildings should only be used by people who are not prone to
moisture-related health problems and which can be used by more sensitive users.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 19th CIB World Building Congress : Construction and Society
EditorsStephen Kajewski, Karen Manley, Keith Hampson
Number of pages12
PublisherQueensland University of Technology
Publication date2013
Article number262
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9875542-0-8, 978-0-9875542-1-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventCIB World Building Congress 2013 - Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 5 May 20139 May 2013
Conference number: 19


ConferenceCIB World Building Congress 2013
LocationBrisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
SeriesCIB Proceedings


  • Retrofitting of Insulation
  • Prioritising
  • Moisture Safety Level
  • Health
  • Costs

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