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Building overheating raises alarm bells

Following news from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) that UK homes and infrastructure are unprepared for rising temperatures, a polymer specialist has warned consultants and contractors to ensure future buildings are resilient against hotter conditions.

Energy efficiency measures mean more residential and commercial buildings are sealed and insulated, yet few measures are in place to mitigate the warmer weather facing the UK each summer. However, taking account of these changing weather conditions comes as part of a wider challenge for construction professionals to ensure wellbeing and occupant comfort are built into a development though ‘healthy design’.

Research of 520 M&E contractors and architects in polymer specialist REHAU’s latest report Designing Healthy Apartments found the majority of respondents felt sustainability would be the most important design issue over the next 10 years. However, with climate change likely to result in ever hotter summers, Steve Richmond, head of marketing and technical at REHAU Building Solutions, warns that sustainable design must include cooling measures to deliver suitable conditions for occupants.

“In the drive for sustainability, the focus for many consultants and contractors has been on driving energy efficiency for heating,” says Mr Richmond. “Yet when it comes to the summer months, occupants can face unbearably hot conditions as a result of steps put in place to better insulate building stock.”

“As we continue to see fluctuations between colder winters and hotter summers, consultants and contractors must design buildings to be able to cope with these contrasting conditions. Crucially, occupant wellbeing should not be impaired during either season as a result of design and specification decisions.”

REHAU’s report also found that 44% of respondents felt wellbeing was ‘value engineered’ out of projects later on, further putting into question the longevity and sustainability of buildings being constructed in the current boom. With this in mind, Mr Richmond is highlighting the importance of identifying innovative building services during the design stage, so structures can better cope with the ongoing effects of climate change.

He said: “As health and wellbeing, particularly in the work environment, are under the microscope at the moment, consultants and contractors are under pressure deliver healthier buildings. Reducing the risk of ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ by using circulating water to heat and cool, Thermally Activated Building Structures (TABS) are an efficient solution for residential and commercial buildings. Using water circulating through pipework the concrete, the quick-to-install solution can reduce air exchange in conjunction with ventilation systems resulting in better air quality for occupants.

“Improving sustainability credentials will also remain a key challenge for construction professionals, who need to ensure buildings are designed to use renewable energy as it becomes more common place. Due to its lower flow temperatures, TABS is suitable for the efficient use of renewable energy sources like heat pumps and reduces the need for fossil fuel intensive mechanical cooling systems.”

23 June 2021


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