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Heatwaves among built environment climate change risks

A report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change-UK to underpin an upcoming national review of risks warns of the possible dangers posed to buildings from extreme temperatures.

Six independent reports have now been published by the CCC as part of this review process. These reports included research conducted by WSP looking specifically into risks posed by a changing climate to infrastructure as well as the built and natural environment.

WSP’s findings identified heatwaves and overheating as a critical consideration for the future of buildings and construction, with average summer temperatures expected to continue to rise. The research highlighted the impact of higher temperatures on the health of building occupants, as well as the resulting increase in power and water demand. Concerns were also raised about the likelihood of higher temperatures resulting in IT and communications failures.

According to the research, higher average summer temperatures and “extreme high temperature events” therefore pose physical, socio-economic and environmental risks for cities in particular. These risks are attributed directly to overheating in homes and public buildings such as hospitals. The report said, “This can lead to ill health, particularly in at-risk populations such as the elderly, and result in pressure on health and social care services, as well as lower economic productivity and increased demand on energy and water systems (leading to competition for resources elsewhere).”

An increase in average temperatures is also expected to drive increased demand for cooling functions that will require additional amounts of energy that will pose its own challenges around the resulting carbon emissions from powering technologies such as air conditioning.

Earlier this year, the CCC used a progress report produced for parliament to call for amendments to building standards to consider overheating risks in both new and existing homes.

The CCC said it favoured an overlapping policy on building standards that manages overheating risk alongside legal requirements for improved energy efficiency and the introduction of low-carbon heating systems.

An upcoming heat and buildings strategy expected to be published by the government will therefore be expected to have provisions for a range of factors such as poor IAQ, overheating and fuel poverty, according to the CCC.