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The hidden problem of overheating – Kathryn Brown, Committee on Climate Change

Kathryn Brown, a Senior Analyst at the Committee on Climate Changes’ Adaptation Sub-Committee produced a report identifying three of the key reasons why overheating should be deemed an environmental hazard on par with other climate risks such as flooding.

‘It may seem odd that overheating is an issue in a temperate country like the UK when people cope in other, far hotter parts of the world. Part of the reason is that different populations around the world are adapted to different temperatures. But we also have a problem in the UK because, unlike in other countries, our homes and other buildings are not designed to keep us cool.’ – Kathryn Brown, CCC


In fact, overheating affects over 20% of homes in the UK currently. Furthermore, the homes that we are building now are still going to be standing in 2050 – when it is predicted that heatwaves such as the 2018 one will be a common occurrence; rather than a rarity.

‘Air conditioning could be used in many instances where overheating does occur, but is expensive, energy-intensive, and expels waste heat into the environment, making the problem of overheating worse for others. It is better to avoid these costs, if possible.’  –Kathryn Brown, CCC 


Solar shading is, however, a passive, low energy method for cooling buildings that doesn’t expel waste heat and therefore doesn’t carry the risk of causing an Urban Heat Island effect and further exacerbating the problem. By installing solar shading, the need for air-conditioning in homes in the UK would be reduced, if not removed entirely.

Research conducted by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for the ASC’s progress report this year found that 45% of buildings professionals estimate there is ‘little or no additional cost’ of incorporating passive cooling measures in new buildings at the design stage.’ – Kathryn Brown, CCC


The most effective method of solar shading to combat overheating is external blinds. It is far better and more cost effective to design external blinds into the building rather than retrofitting them. The research by BRE suggesting that there is ‘little or no additional cost’ for the inclusion of passive cooling measures in the design phase of a new building is paramount to consider when weighing up options for making a building more comfortable.

The hidden problem of overheating by Kathryn Brown is an exceptionally clear and succinct summary of the problems the UK is facing relating to overheating. At the BBSA we have conducted research into overheating and how this can impact health and wellbeing.

The BBSA manifesto:

  • Consider shading at the outset,
  • Make sure compliance models reflect the true benefits of solar shading,
  • We aim for performance, not just compliance,
  • Design the problem out, not let the heat in.


Urban Heat Island effect

BRE Research

The hidden problem of overheating, Kathryn Brown, CCC


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