For generations, homes in Britain were designed to retain heat, and make cold winters bearable.
Keeping it cool in the mild summer was usually an afterthought, if at all.
But in recent years, each new heat wave brings a new reminder that buying a fan or two won’t always cut it. There has been a growing interest among builders and designers, with some urging from activists and the government, to ensure that new homes are built to reduce summer temperature rise.
New regulations, called Part O, came into effect in England in June, requiring new homes to be built with some measures to combat overheating. The regulations aim to reduce solar gain – the increase in room temperature caused by sunlight – to ensure the safety of occupants, even if they remain uncomfortable.
Mark Sydal, director at Low Energy Architectural Practice, said the rules will “help designers, architects and engineers make more informed decisions so that the risks of overheating in new properties can be reduced.” Often, he said, rooms gain a lot of heat through large windows directed in certain directions—the kind of design decision that future homes might consider more fully.
Historically, designers in Britain have not worried much about overheating, said Susie Diamond, founder of Inkling LLP.
“We don’t need to be protected from heat waves, so that wasn’t a priority,” she said.
But with climate change making heat waves more common, and summers getting hotter, that is no longer the case. Diamond said good design that causes overheating – including windows that open wider and ceiling fans – can fix many problems without using air conditioning, which is rare in Britain and often seen as unfriendly to the environment. Not necessary for a few days. every year.
In the past decade, the Climate Change Committee, an independent group that advises the British government, has called for stronger building regulations to combat overheating, along with a retrofit program to tackle older homes. A report released in June 2021 called for improved shading, reflective surfaces and green covering, warning that failure to build new homes without accounting for temperature rise could “leave many existing and new homes uninhabitable as temperatures rise.”