A call to government by a climate change research institute to find a way to save lives amidst rising global temperatures has prompted insulation specialist Actis to remind architects of the importance of ensuring buildings remain cool in the summer as well as warm in winter
The reminder to ensure buildings remain cool in the summer follows an appeal by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, part of the London School of Economics (LSE).
Its policy director Bob Ward said in a letter to the prime minister: “Summer heatwaves are natural disasters for the UK that have killed thousands of people over the past few years, and many lives could have been saved by a better strategy for managing heat risks.”
Fellow climate expert, Julia King from the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), also said: “A very high proportion of existing homes already overheat in a normal summer, never mind ones like the summer of 2018 when around 2,500 deaths were caused.”
King cited a warning from that year by the government’s Environmental Audit Select Committee which predicted that by 2050 the country could see three times as many heat-related deaths as there are today.
Bob Ward and Julia King’s comments coincide with an announcement by the Met Office that temperatures have a 40% chance of rising to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels over the next five years if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.
Mitigating extreme heat with insulation
Actis says that, while sweeping changes are needed to reduce rising global temperatures, one small element which could mitigate the effects of extreme heat is to install insulation which can cool a building as well as keep it warm in winter.
Actis UK and Ireland sales director, Mark Cooper, said: “As well as helping homes stay warm in winter, reflective insulation technologies have the specific ability to counteract heat transfer via radiation. This helps to reflect the solar heat and keep the property at a constant low relative temperature.
“No form of insulation can address the significant effects of solar gain through windows though. That needs to be addressed by judicious use of curtains or siting the windows in strategic positions – a job for the architect.”
His comments also address concerns raised by Professor Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who stated that insulation can exacerbate the problems of overeating.
Cooper added: “With many types of insulation this can be the case. But not with reflective products. Obviously using insulation which can cool a building in the summer is not the answer to all the world’s very serious global warming ills, but it is one of many measures which can be taken to ameliorate the situation.
“Air conditioning is considered by some as one way of addressing this. But this only adds to the greenhouse gas load (and the energy bill) and puts us in an endless cycle of consuming more and more fuel and making the situation even worse. So this is absolutely not the answer. We have to look at the fabric efficiency first.”