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EAC Chair calls for clarity on adapting UK’s buildings to heatwaves

22 May 2024

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, has called on the Government to provide more clarity on its plans to meet commitments on protecting UK buildings from heatwaves.

In a letter to Levelling Up Secretary of State Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the Chair asks the Government to clarify how it plans to mitigate overheating in refurbished buildings, after the Government’s response to a recent Committee report did not address this important concern directly.

In its inquiry into Heat resilience and sustainable cooling, the Committee heard that increasing levels of heat are already having serious and widespread impacts on health, wellbeing and economic productivity in the UK, costing thousands of lives and billions of pounds each year.

Over 4.6 million English homes currently experience overheating during summertime. If global temperatures warm by 2°C, this could rise to 90% of all UK homes.  In its report, published in January 2024, the Committee had concluded that the social and economic case for accelerating heat adaptation measures was “clear-cut,” the Chair writes.

In December 2023, the Government signed up to the Global Cooling Pledge, agreeing to include passive cooling and energy efficiency measures in national building codes for both new and refurbished buildings.

But while Part O of the UK’s building regulations offers guidance on mitigating overheating in new residential buildings, this does not currently apply to refurbishments.

“We again urge the Government to clarity how it intends to meet its Global Cooling Pledge commitment in respect of refurbished buildings,” the Chair writes. “We support an extension to Part O of Building Regulations to cover refurbishments as the most effective and straightforward method of achieving this.”

The Chair also reiterates several of the Committee’s recommendations for increasing green spaces in urban areas, such as parks, trees and green roofs. These can have significant cooling effects – particularly in built-up areas – as well as resulting in additional benefits for wellbeing, health, air quality and biodiversity.

These recommendations include:

  • Introducing a legal requirement to protect and enhance green space;
  • Requiring local authorities to use Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Framework, a tool that helps planners to design nature-rich local areas, which is currently optional; and 
  • Incentivising the uptake of green roofs.

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