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Parliament inquiry to consider UK buildings' heatwave adaptability

Environmental Audit Committee will review how current building regulations and planning policy aligns with strategies to prepare for anticipated increase in temperatures and heatwaves

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry over how to buildings may better mitigate against the effects of overheating on productivity and health as a result of climate change.

Considerations such as the role of the built environment to offset overheating will be considered as part of the inquiry process. The policy review has been launched over concerns about Met Office estimates that the minimum and maximum temperature in the UK has increased by around one degree Celsius since 1950. The committee has argued that with 16 of the warmest years on record globally having occurred after 2001, the UK should be braced for a possible increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves.

Buildings, and what steps government is taking to minimise overheating in public buildings such as hospitals, schools and prisons will be an important focus of the inquiry, with submissions being accepted from experts and other interested parties on the issue until March 14.

The Committee on Climate Change has previously concluded that the UK lacks policies for ensuring the built environment can adjust to rising temperatures, as well as sufficient standards to combat overheating.

An updated Climate Change Risk Assessment document was published by government in 2017. Building on this work, a new National Adaptation Programme that will set out future strategy for government, business and society to try and tackle climate change related challenges is due for release this year.

The Environmental Audit Committee’s new inquiry will consider how effective existing National Adaption Programme commitments have been in protecting against human health risks as a result of heatwaves. It will also look at where there are knowledge gaps around the anticipated risks resulting from increased temperature.

This focus will also consider how existing mechanisms adequately address the potential problems from a 2-degree Celsius increase in UK temperature in future.

This will include the adequacy of short to long-term planning for minimising possible overheating in buildings, as well as the implications for productivity and health.

Planning processes and building regulations will be reviewed over how they align with the current policy on adjusting to climate change. The impacts of overheating in the UK’s digital and water infrastructure will form part of the inquiry process.

Environmental Audit Committee chair MP Mary Creagh said the potential for hotter summers and more frequent UK heatwaves created an increased risk of heat-related illness and death for the country’s aging population.

She said, “The government should be doing all it can to protect citizens from risks associated with higher temperatures.”

“Our inquiry will look at whether the UK is prepared for higher temperatures, and what more the government should be doing to protect people, businesses and digital infrastructure from rising temperatures.”

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