Yesterday I chaired an extremely interesting/worrying session at the Homes conference about overheating in summer of new buildings and those that have been retrofitted to make them more energy efficient. The discussion was worrying – anecdotal evidence is being gathered, but no-one seems to know the scale of this problem. Here’s the story I very quickly filed for Inside Housing based on the discussion:
Overheating of homes in summer is becoming an ‘emergency’ situation, with many social landlords getting regular complaints about new or recently retrofitted properties, the Homes 2014 conference in London heard yesterday.
‘We must really take this issue very seriously,’ said Paul Ciniglio, sustainability and asset strategist at housing association First Wessex, warning that if it is not addressed the problem will bring the south east and London ‘absolutely to its knees’.
The problem can be caused by a number of issues, such as the design failing to consider overheating, too many south-facing windows, and the installation of lots of insulation in order to keep residents warm in winter. It is exacerbated by rising temperatures in summer due to climate change.
In one development that had experienced overheating, Mr Ciniglio said that a resident posted a photo on Facebook of a temperature sensor that recorded 50.5 degrees centigrade. The device, installed to monitor the overheating problem, had been placed out of the sun in a communal area.
In another development, the problem is so bad that ‘In the top floor flats, the owners could only sell them to some poor unsuspecting person in winter.’
First Wessex had to install air conditioning to alleviate the overheating problem in one of its homes, after a baby living in the property started having health problems, Mr Ciniglio said. He added that he was being open about the problems because he was convinced from talking to other social landlords that First Wessex is only one among many experiencing these issues.
No one knows the true scale of the problem, said Ross Holleron, associate director of the Zero Carbon Hub, a non-profit which works with industry and government. The Hub has been asked by government to investigate the issue, and is currently surveying social landlords and assessing the evidence available. It aims to produce a report by winter 2015, and influence the next scheduled changes to building regulations.
However, he said that anecdotally the Hub has received many phone calls reporting problems with overheating and ‘talking about potential legal action’.
Marylis Ramos, associate director at the environmental division of architect PRP, warned that projections for the temperature of London in 2050 or 2080 suggest the problem is only going to get more extreme.
‘The worst case scenario – it’s a completely different country,’ she said, and suggested that developers should be mimicking the architecture of cities like Nice, Malaga and Florence, adding shutters and making sure buildings have a lot of thermal mass to help them cool down.