A recent report on heatwaves has highlighted the need for changes to building regulations to prevent deaths due to overheating. The report comes from the Environmental Audit Committee and aims to address a lack of government policy by focussing on ways to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Unless the government acts quickly, heat-related deaths in the UK are expected to treble to 7,000 by 2050. Therefore, the report finds a new approach is required to building design.

A New Approach to Heating and Ventilation

The chair of the committee, MP Mary Creagh, warned that the government’s current plan does not include effective means to limit the effect of high temperatures in buildings. Ms Creagh argued a fresh approach was needed to cope with fears that soaring temperatures may reach 38.5 degrees centigrade by 2040.
A key recommendation of the report is to amend environmental and construction legislation to make homes, the workplace and other environments able to cope with high temperatures. Concerns were raised over the resilience of modular homes to high temperatures, so the report recommends an end to offering public money to support the construction of such homes.

Currently, there is no regulation for the prevention of overheating in buildings, and tests for overheating are considered to be ineffective. Older people, people with disabilities, children and people with cardiovascular and respiratory issues are most at risk from the current situation.

Incorporating Air Con Design into New Building Projects

The findings of the report will challenge the construction industry and air conditioning suppliers to deliver a solution to the problem of higher temperatures during the summer. The committee found that planning policies should ensure that homes, public buildings and transport networks are able to react to excessive heat with a heat-resilient infrastructure.

The committee estimates that 20 per cent of UK homes pose a significant health risk due to overheating especially during a heatwave. Single aspect flats and buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s are considered a significantly high risk, as are densely populated urban areas.

The Future

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers have formulated tests for the prevention of buildings overheating at design stage. They argue regulations should be changed to safeguard health.

The committee urged the government to implement a long-term strategy that combines a work plan for the adaptation of existing problem properties together with modern standards of air conditioning and ventilation for new buildings. This is to be combined with a new environmental watchdog to oversee the implementation of the plans and to issue public health and guidance for heatwaves.

As climate change produces higher temperatures, health risks to the public increases. Buildings need to be properly ventilated and both home and industrial air conditioning will constitute an integrated part of new build projects.

The report can be viewed in full on the parliament.uk website.