Building regulations must change to prevent overheating deaths

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The government is being urged to consider changes to building regulations to prevent overheating in homes and public buildings

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called on the government to amend building regulations to ensure homes, hospitals and schools do not overheat.

A new regulation was put forward in 2015 by the CCC relating to this issue; however, ministers rejected the idea, not wishing to add more red tape for homebuilders.

Now, the CCC has warned people could be at risk if action is not taken. According to the organisation, the number of deaths due to heat waves is set to more than triple by 2040. With 7,000 deaths a year expected to be attributed to deadly heatwaves, the CCC is calling on the government to act now.

Changes must be made

Lord Deben, chair of the CCC and a former Conservative environment secretary said: “What we need from government is a willingness to accept that building regulations, properly done, are not an incubus [problem] – they are in fact an opportunity to enable people to build for the future.

“It is absolutely essential to recognise that we will not deal with the problems of climate change unless we have tougher building regulations,” he said.

“The government has a real opportunity to do that as it is going to have to look at its building regulations in any case because of the tragic events [of the Grenfell Tower fire] and I think it is very important that they should take the opportunity to look at them in this wider sense.”

The CCC’s head of adaptation, Daniel Johns, said more needed to be done to prevent problems in the future.

“We said [in 2015] there is a compelling case for a new building standard to avoid new homes overheating. But [the government] response said there was clearly a trade-off here and they were also mindful of burdens on developers,” Johns commented.

“So this is an area where they consider the potential small additional cost that could be borne by developers and what that might mean for the price of houses, being traded off against the potential long term cost for people occupying these properties in the hotter summers and heatwaves in years to come.”

Vulnerable people at risk

Older people are more likely to suffer during the hot weather. As such, hospitals and care homes were among the facilities identified by the CCC as particularly vulnerable. Schools and prisons were also flagged.

Lord Deben said air conditioning did not provide a solution, rather the way in which homes and buildings are built is more important.

He said: “If buildings are properly built in this country there is very little need for air conditioning. The problem with air conditioning is that it heats the area round about, so it has a disadvantage for the community as a whole. It’s a constant pushing out of hot air.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council, said: “Clearly, there is a risk that our building regulations are no longer fit for purpose without robust protections against overheating.”

A study earlier in the year suggested overheating in building was becoming an issue. Loughborough University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering revealed research that showed the issue to be particularly endemic in new homes.

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