Urbanisation means that buildings are playing an ever increasing role as regards quality of life in a town or city. In large cities in particular the high-rise office buildings have a major impact on the quality of life of people at street level. Aspects such as heat stress, wind nuisance, shade and unfavourable light reflection can cause considerable nuisance to pedestrians, cyclists and local residents.
It is not only the position of a building in relation to other buildings that can cause problems. Buildings and/or dwellings can also cause problems for their surroundings. Examples include noise pollution caused by some lifts, cranes and cooling and heating installations. These may, for example, cause problems for people who live above shops.
Developments such as the energy transition are having an effect on the nuisance caused by buildings in residential neighbourhoods. More and more people want to heat their homes without using gas and instead install a heat pump. This will increase the number of ventilators and thereby the noise levels in residential neighbourhoods. The (incorrect) use of barbecues, wood-burning stoves or open fires causes odour nuisance and leads to air pollution.
Temperature and wind
The location of buildings in an urban environment has an effect on local weather conditions. First and foremost buildings increase the local temperature. Dark materials, such as concrete heat up in the sunlight. Buildings block the wind and that means that heat is removed more slowly. Paved surfaces also mean less evaporation and the buildings themselves also produce heat, for example from air-conditioning ventilation systems.
A lot of people experience health issues during heatwaves. Every week approximately thirty people in the Netherlands die for each degree that the temperature increases above the long-term average.
Secondly buildings, and particularly high rise buildings such as office buildings/flats, influence the wind pattern on the ground. Sudden gusts of wind can cause a problem for people at street level, such as cyclists or car drivers with trailers. In addition, the cladding or roofs of lower lying buildings can come loose and cause a danger.
Noise pollution in a residential environment causes various health issues such as stress and sleep disturbance. Stress and sleep disturbance can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, a bad mood, tiredness and reduced capacity to perform the following day. You can read more about noise and health on our Noise theme page.
Nuisance due to the (incorrect) use of barbecues, wood-burning stoves or open fires causes odour nuisance and leads to air pollution. People who experience problems due to odour nuisance can experience problems such as headache, shortness of breath and nausea. Contaminated air can lead to all kinds of health problems, such as asthma and cardiovascular diseases. You can read more about air and health on our air theme page.
The Spatial Planning Act states that zoning plans must be established in order to ensure proper spatial planning. For example, no direct regulations apply to wind nuisance. However, if a zoning plan permits buildings with a height of 30 metres or more, an investigation into wind nuisance has to be carried out. The investigation is then performed on the basis of the wind nuisance and danger standard in the built environment, the NEN 8100:2006. The Netherlands is the only country that has a standard for this.
Municipalities take the negative environmental effects of buildings into account when organising public space. For example the creation of green and blue spaces helps to cool a city. The installation of canopies in the space between high-rise buildings can help to decrease the amount of wind. One example of a city where this has been implemented is Almere. In the new city centre, which is right next to a large and open lake, vertical and horizontal glass partitions have been installed following complaints from shoppers and wind nuisance has significantly decreased as a result.
Article 3 of the Buildings Decree 2012 stipulates a number of limits which apply to structures from a health perspective. For example, it is imposed on the amount of noise from installations inside buildings, such as lifts, cranes and cooling and heating installations, which is audible in nearby private houses. This limit has been set to 30 dB. The Buildings Decree also imposes conditions on the placement and operation of chimneys. No norms have been set in the Netherlands for multi-burner stoves. Consequently it is unclear when such stoves are actually in breach of any rules. For example, the Buildings Decree 2012 states that it 'is prohibited to perform (…) activities which would result in the distribution of smoke, soot, odour, vapour or dust in a manner which would be detrimental or harmful for the environment'.
The Activities Decree states that company owners must ensure that their company does not have any detrimental effect on the environment. This means any nuisance relating to noise, odour, light, dust and vibration.
When modifying or constructing homes, people need to take neighbours into account. A specialist can help you limit the nuisance caused by cooling and heating installations and fireplaces. You can find more tips for reducing noise pollution or preventing odour nuisance on the noise and air theme pages.