Maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature is vital to ensuring our general wellbeing and productivity. With heatwaves such as the hot spells of 2003 and 2006 expected to occur in most summers by the 2050s, we face significant risks to our health and comfort. External temperatures can be intensified by the urban heat island effect – increasing heat emissions from energy use in homes, industry, business and transport networks, and reduced air movement around buildings. The location, fabric, orientation and use of a building all contribute to the risk of overheating. Highly insulated lightweight buildings and those with heavily glazed facades are already vulnerable to high temperatures, but many other types will become uncomfortable places to live and work in the future. The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) 2012 identified the overheating of buildings and infrastructure in the urban environment as a priority area requiring early adaptation action, i.e. within the next 5 years.

ARCC resources

Messages for policy-makers: a summary of research, written for decision-makers, highlighting the latest results and implications for end users.
Practical guidance: identifies homes at risk of overheating and suggests measures to help cool buildings.

EPSRC research projects

ARCC CN projects contributing to our understanding of overheating in buildings and potential response strategies for both existing and new build include: ARCADIA – assessing the impact of potential overheating on urban resilience (focused on London). CREW – adapting UK dwellings; a tool to assist when choosing retrofit adaptations for specific building types to reduce overheating. SNACC – developing a portfolio of adaptation strategies for suburbs including building-level interventions and broader strategies such as green landscaping to cool the environment. DeDeRHECC – identifying viable strategies to reduce the risk of summer overheating in hospital buildings thereby safeguarding patient care. PROMETHEUS, PROCLIMATION, COPSE, Low Carbon Futures – a suite of projects looking at modelling the future thermal and energy-use performance of buildings using the latest climate projections. LUCID – helped to understand the impact of local urban climate on energy use, comfort and health with the emphasis on London. SCORCHIO – developed prototype tools to help planners to adapt urban areas, with a particular emphasis on heat and human comfort.

Outputs in action

DECC and DCLG are using synthesised evidence to inform Green Deal advice. See Practical guidance page. Two reports from the National House Building Council (NHBC) draw on evidence from ARCC CN projects:

DCLG, 2012: Overheating in Homes – Literature Review and Overheating in Homes & Gap Analysis and Recommendations. Two reports providing evidence to government on whether overheating is occurring in new and existing dwellings and if retrofitting/refurbishing options are likely to increase the risk of future overheating. Includes outputs from a number of ARCC CN projects. Heatwave Plan for England, 2012 (pdf, 360 KB). Raises public and professional awareness of the effects of severe heat on health. Includes results from CREW on keeping homes cool, and from BIOPICCC and DeDeRHECC on informing strategies to cool hospital estates and care homes. A summary of Climate Risks for London (pdf, 9.3 MB). London Climate Change Partnership, 2012. Includes outputs from the ARCADIA project on the increasing external temperatures and anthropogenic heat emissions. Managing Risks and Increasing Resilience. The London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (pdf, 4 MB), October 2011. Assesses the consequences of climate change and sets out a plan to protect and enhance the quality of life of Londoners. Research from LUCID identifies areas of overheating risk and risk management options. CIBSE Summertime Overheating Conference, 2011. Eight talks highlighting the issue of overheating, including a presentation from Roger Street outlining the ARCC CN contribution A review of weather guide and data available: the ARCC CN. CIBSE Building Services Engineering Research & Technology journal special issue: Adaptation and resilience to a changing climate; supporting adaptation decision making. Papers from DeDeRHECC, DOWNPIPE, COPSE, Low Carbon Futures, PROCLIMATION and UKCIP inform future building design, including thermal performance. Technology Strategy Board, Design for Future Climate. Established to further the development of strategies to adapt specific UK buildings to the changing climate. Many projects used weather files from PROMETHEUS (and COPSE) to model future climate impacts, primarily overheating.