Shading has a key role to play in preventing a new generation of UK buildings from seriously overheating, according to government advisers.
A recent report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned that Britain is ‘locking in problems for future generations’ by designing buildings which become too hot in soaring summer temperatures.
The report criticises architects for incorporating too much glass in contemporary buildings. However, the British Blind & Shutter Association (BBSA) says the optimal solution for the wellbeing of a building’s occupants is a combination of glazing and appropriate shading products.
Dave Bush, chairman of the BBSA’s Technical Working Group, commented: “We don’t necessarily need buildings with fewer windows or less glazing – natural light plays an essential role in both health and productivity.
“Properly specified shading products – preferably incorporated into a building’s design from day one – make it perfectly possible to strike the right balance between access to natural light and keeping interiors at appropriate, safe temperatures.”
The CCC report emphasised that air conditioning was not a solution for the challenges of overheating in buildings. Not only does it use vast amounts of energy – compounding the problems of climate change – but the process itself contributes significantly to rising temperatures outside the buildings that use it.
In support of this CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “If buildings are properly built in this country, there is very little need for air conditioning.”
A study conducted by Loughborough University earlier this year warned that current building regulations focus too much on keeping homes warm during the winter, while ignoring the dangers of overheating during the summer.
Around 15,000 people died prematurely during a Europe-wide heatwave in 2003 – and the Loughborough study warned that deaths related to overheating could triple by 2040.
The CCC is particularly concerned that there are no plans in place to make public buildings such as schools, hospitals and care homes more resilient to rising temperatures.
Its deputy chair, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, added: “We know it’s bad for productivity, we know it’s bad for wellbeing and we know it’s bad for health, yet building regulations don’t cover heat and the management of high temperatures.”
Dave Bush of the BBSA added: “A solution to this problem is within reach – but the building industry needs to develop a greater awareness of how glass, solar shading products and adequate ventilation work together to create buildings which are both safe and pleasant for their occupants. In essence we need to design and build buildings that work.”