UK buildings underprepared for future heat waves: report

A report into the UK’s susceptibility to heatwaves by a parliamentary committee has found that UK Building Regulations need to be amended to prevent homes and businesses overheating.

The Environmental Audit Committee has found that heat-related deaths are expected to treble by 2050 unless direct action by the government and planning departments is taken to address building design. In particular, amendments to current construction and environmental legislation will ensure higher levels of resilience. 

MP Mary Creagh, the chair of the committee has stated that the government's current plan to deal with rising temperatures was not effective in preventing the overheating of key infrastructure and that planning policies surrounding home building and transport networks need to be changed.

Ms Creagh adds that heat waves can cause premature deaths and that there will be 7,000 deaths every year due to the heat by 2050 if action is not taken. This action will include warnings to the public and the appointment of a minister to lead this work.

The report shows that 20% of UK homes pose significant health risks, especially single aspect flats and buildings from the 1960s and 1970s. Homes in densely populated areas are also subject to overheating. These can pose a risk to the elderly, those with cardiovascular and respiratory disease and children.

There is currently no building regulation to prevent overheating in buildings and government ministers are uncertain that buildings regulations should be responsible for public health. This view is not shared by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers who say that regulations and testing should be established to protect the public.

Other concerns raised in the report include the fact that funding for climate change adaptations was removed in 2015 leading to the closure of regional climate change partnerships and that green spaces are being eroded in urban areas and that the introduction of green spaces should be part of the 25-year Environment Plan.