Research report considers how buildings can respond to hotter Summers

Published:  09 October, 2004

New research commissioned by the Department of Trade & Industry provides a template for how UK buildings can be adapted to cope with increasingly hot Summers — one of the main effects of climate change. The research was carried out by Arup, and the full recommendations will be published in the Autumn as a CIBSE technical memorandum.

Using data from the UKCIP climate-change scenarios, the research identified the key characteristics in different types of building — including houses, flats, offices and schools, that determine how well they will cope with higher outside temperatures. The research outlines ways in which those buildings can be adapted to improve comfort levels for people who have to work or live in them.

One of the key findings is that many new houses built to current Building Regulations will, if no remedial measures are taken, become increasingly uncomfortable to live in during the Summer. Computer modelling was used to predict how space temperatures would be affected by climate change. One case study of a new house of traditional medium-weight construction using UKCIP’s medium-high scenario shows that the number of Summer days in which the internal temperature in living areas exceeds 28°C will increase from about six days a year at the base year of 1989 to 14 days by the 2020s and over 68 days by the 2080s.

Although both residential and non-residential buildings are affected, the adaptation methods will be particular to each type of building. Even within similar types of building, the solutions will differ according to factors such as how the building is used and the references of the owners/occupiers. Overall, buildings with high thermal mass will be much less affected and easier to adapt than lightweight structures.

The obvious solution of installing air conditioning has disadvantages in terms of increasing energy use and, depending on the source of electricity, contributing further to climate change. There are many practical ways of improving comfort levels in a building without resorting to air conditioning.

• Intelligent 24-hour control of air conditioning.

• Solar shading to reduce heat gains through windows.

• Turning off equipment such as PC monitors and laser printers when not in use.

• Relaxing dress codes at work.

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