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Poor design puts occupants at risk of overheating

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Nine out of 10 hospitals and a fifth of homes suffer from design that puts occupants at risk of overheating, according to Lord Krebs, a member of the government’s climate change watchdog committee

Krebs made the claim in comments to the Financial Times on the day the Committee on Climate Change launched its annual update report on progress by the UK government.

The report quoted 2012 research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council showing that temperatures in some hospital wards can exceed 30 degrees when the temperature outside is only 22 degrees.

Krebs added that expected rises in temperature due to climate change would likely exacerbate the problem in poorly-designed hospital wards with large plate glass windows.

‘So you can imagine what it would be like if the outside temperature was 35 degrees, it could cause significant discomfort,’ Krebs told the FT.

Hot weather currently contributes to around 2,000 deaths per year across the UK, according to the committee.

Studies show that up to a fifth of homes already exceed defined thresholds suffer from the problem even in a cool summer, it added.

In 2014, the Department for Communities and Local Government cited a lack of evidence of the benefits of introducing new building regulations covering overheating, but said it would keep research under review.

The CCC report said: ‘There is now enough evidence to support the creation of a new standard or regulation to avoid overheating in new homes.’

Department of Health guidelines for new healthcare buildings, state that internal temperatures should not exceed 28 degrees for more than 50 hours per year.

Care Quality Commission guidance states that users should be able to control internal temperatures, but does not set limits.

The committee recommended that DCLG and DH should “develop incentives for the uptake of passive cooling in existing homes, hospitals and care homes and include new measures in the next climate change national adaption plan.

The committee also said that DCLG should by 2017 target a reversal in the decline in urban green space, of which seven per cent has disappeared since 2001.

‘Parks and green spaces deliver a range of benefits including mitigating the urban heat island effect,’ the report concluded.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There is no doubt that Lord Krebs is absolutely correct in his assessment regarding heat gains to buildings. One only has to look at the mechanical cooling loads that engineers have to deal with, often in excess of 150w/m,2 to realise that poor design is increasing both first costs and operating costs and as well as causing a poor working environment, is adding significantly to our overall carbon emissions.

    Martyn Love - Managing Director LTi Applied Systems Technology Ltd

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