MPs urge nationwide home retrofitting to counter rising temperatures

MPs have called for all UK homes to be retrofitted in order to cope with rising temperatures due to climate change.

The Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee said that the heat resilience of UK homes was a concern, given that people tend to spend 90% of their time indoors.

The increased frequency of heatwaves in the UK is a public health issue, leading to the deaths of some 4,500 people in 2022, the year when a temperature of 40°C was recorded in the UK for the first time.

Ministers have already taken steps to combat this, with 2022 guidance for new-build homes requiring that developers include heat mitigation in new residential developments. That includes measures such as glazing measures to reduce unwanted solar gain and new levels of cross-ventilation.

However, MPs recommended in their Heat Resilience and Sustainable Cooling report that the government should extend these measures to all homes. The committee called for Part O of the building regulations, which covers new residential buildings, to be expanded to cover refurbishments of existing properties as well as changes of use to residential. They said that a national drive to protect homes from overheating should be coordinated by local authorities, backed by appropriate funding.

The report suggests that the programme should be included in existing retrofit initiatives on insulation and energy efficiency, creating a 'much more ambitious and comprehensive housing retrofit programme, which also addresses the risks of overheating'. The authors said that cooling technologies such as air conditioning should be avoided, because of the increased demand for electricity 'risking a vicious cycle of increased greenhouse gas emissions that in turn make the world even hotter'.

There was also the suggestion that the government should check whether overheating mitigation measures are actually working within a year of their being introduced.

Other cooling recommendations included encouraging 'passive' measures such as parks, trees, water bodies, and green infrastructure in cities and towns. The MPs also want the government to appoint a 'minister for heat resilience' to coordinate efforts. 

This article first appeared on Architects' Journal 

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