Arup report reveals London neighbourhoods most vulnerable to urban heat

The most vulnerable hospitals were concentrated in east-central, and included the Barts Health NHS Trust, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Whittington Health NHS Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The research was published alongside an interim report by the independent London Climate Resilience Review about the type of buildings most affected.

Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor of environment and energy at the Greater London Authority (GLA), described it as ‘unacceptable’ that people living in London’s most deprived areas are the most vulnerable to overheating. 

‘The Mayor commissioned this report to help us prioritise the areas and public services which most need adaptation in the face of extreme heat.’

It identifies ‘essential properties’, including schools, hospitals, care homes and residential buildings which would be most impacted by periods of high temperatures in the capital, with the aim of informing how ‘[London boroughs can] prioritise interventions and adaptations’ to climate change.

Arup said these more central boroughs, identified above, ‘tend to have a higher proportion of flats, which are considered to be more vulnerable to overheating, compared to outer London boroughs which have a higher proportion of houses’, and are vulnerable to the intensified UHI effect toward the centre of London.

The Properties Vulnerable to Heat Impacts in London report was commissioned by the Mayor of London to help inform the city’s plans for climate resilience, and comes in the wake of the news earlier this month that 2023 was the hottest year on record.

Hospitals and schools in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Islington are also among the highest risk from UHI effects – particularly when combined with social vulnerability, which Arup found is ‘higher towards central and east London’.

Arup said the report ‘highlights an opportunity to overlay these heat impact datasets with other ongoing climate adaptation programmes, such as flood and drought assessments’.

Arup director Damien McCloud said: ‘It is vital that these findings inform GLA’s efforts and broader policy-making so that meaningful interventions can be put in place to protect Londoners in buildings most at risk of overheating.

The report found London neighbourhoods with the highest heat risks to residential properties were in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Camden.

She added: ‘For some time now we’ve known London is getting hotter – and we need to urgently future-proof the capital against the impacts of a changing climate.

‘At the same time, London needs a holistic approach to reducing the impact of the different consequences of climate change.’

Vulnerable areas are identified using an Arup-developed digital tool, UHeat, which combines satellite imagery and open source climate data to analyse huge areas of cities for urban heat island (UHI) hotspots, and identifies the particular buildings or materials causing them.

According to Arup, the findings for London reveal ‘a direct correlation between a higher heat risk and areas that have greater socio-economic vulnerabilities’.

Outer London boroughs including Bromley, Havering, and Hillingdon had the lowest heat risk to residential properties.

Last September, the AJ ran a three-part mini-series, Handling the Heat, exploring design solutions for a heating climate – after scientists predicted a 30 per cent hike in ‘uncomfortably hot’ days in the UK.