MPs call for retrofit of all homes to counter rising temperatures

The call comes days after a report by Arup found that Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Camden were the parts of London most susceptible to overheating due to climate change.

The MPs also said that the government should check whether overheating mitigation measures are actually working within a year of their being introduced.

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’.

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.

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 co-ordinate efforts.

The RIBA, which gave evidence to the committee, welcomed the report and said it wanted to be involved in implementing the recommendations.

They said that a national drive to protect homes from overheating should be co-ordinated by local authorities, backed by appropriate funding.

Four out of five homes that will exist in 2050 are already built, meaning that the scale of retrofitting required for existing homes to protect them from overheating is vast. We consider that there are opportunities to combine existing initiatives on insulation and energy efficiency into a much more ambitious and comprehensive housing retrofit programme which also addresses the risks of overheating.

‘We hope the government urgently acts on these recommendations and utilises our professional expertise – architects are critical to the delivery of a sustainable more resilient built environment.’

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 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.

Such an approach, if well designed and delivered, can minimise both cost and disruption while ensuring homes are energy efficient and remain comfortable to live in. We recommend a locally-led approach delivered via local authorities – which know their areas and communities best – backed with adequate long-term funding, and prioritising passive measures, and then fans, over ‘active’ cooling measures. Private finance will also be a key component in achieving retrofit on such a vast scale; we therefore call on the government urgently to bring forward proposals to encourage access to low-cost finance for householders following the consultation it carried out three years ago.



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‘These “no regret” solutions bring great benefits, not only mitigating the impacts of extreme heat, but also by supporting healthier lives.

RIBA president Muyiwa Oki said: ‘Today’s report is another stark warning about our warming planet – and the dangers it brings to both people and our built environment.

The parliamentary environmental audit committee said that the heat resilience of British homes was a concern, given that people tend to spend 90 per cent of their time indoors.

Post-occupancy evaluation should also be brought in to ascertain the real-world performance of mitigation measures taken under Part O, within the first year of installation.

‘It positively echoes our calls to accelerate action on heat adaptation measures as part of a well-funded National Retrofit Strategy and expand urban green space.

However, the MPs recommended in their Heat Resilience and Sustainable Cooling report, published on Wednesday (31 January), 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.

While the introduction of Part O of the building regulations, which covers the overheating mitigation requirements of new residential buildings, is a positive step, this does not currently apply widely enough. We therefore recommend that Part O be expanded to cover refurbishments of existing properties as well as material changes of use to residential.

The findings of the report, commissioned by London mayor Sadiq Khan, show ‘a direct correlation between a higher heat risk and areas that have greater socio-economic vulnerabilities’, Arup found.

Heat Resilience and Sustainable Cooling report summary