In February, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change released a report entitled “UK housing: fit for the future?” This report identified priorities which must be addressed to ensure that new and existing housing is adapted to a changing climate whilst itself minimising its contribution to climate change.
A number of LoLo students are working on exactly these issues, showing the relevance and importance of their research to our national priorities. We highlight several projects here.
The report discussed the reality of increasing temperatures in homes, with especially serious impacts on vulnerable occupants. Matej Gustin is working on how to give early warning signs for householders at risk of extreme temperatures in their homes during heatwaves, using statistical forecasting models. His latest results can be found here.
The CCC is keen to promote adaptation measures available to builders and home owners to reduce the risk of overheating in homes without installing air-conditioning. But first, we need to understand how occupants currently behave: Dan Wright has been researching what people actually do when indoor temperatures are elevated, and Ben Roberts is investigating window opening and blind use to provide a quantitative evidence base for real buildings. Meanwhile, Giorgos Petrou is working on quantifying the effect of occupant behaviour on indoor summer temperatures across the whole building stock.
The report points out that the way new homes are built and existing homes retrofitted often falls short of design standards. The ‘as-built’ performance of homes, for example, how thermally efficient they are, must also be better monitored. Matthew Li, Frances Hollick and Naina Jangra are all working on ways to use data to estimate the real energy performance of houses, whilst Seb Junemann is researching the unintended consequences of energy retrofits. The report highlights the need for tightened new-build standards; work by Joe Forde has explored design support strategies for local authorities in aiding the development of Passivhaus social housing projects and in setting stricter, low-carbon local standards.
Going forward, the CCC state that homes should use low-carbon sources of heating such as heat pumps and heat networks. Stephen Watson has been estimating how much electricity and power a heat pump future would use, while Zack Wang is investigating how to combine heat pumps and heat networks for the lowest cost heat for the consumer. The CCC point out the need for flexible electricity demand from heat pumps; Clare Hanmer is investigating what this means for the households involved.
With ever stricter insulation and airtightness requirements, the report highlights that regulations around ventilation must evolve to keep pace. Measuring ventilation rate is difficult and costly, and Jessica Few and Minnie Ashdown are working on scalable techniques to provide this much needed evidence base. Meanwhile, Murat Mustafa is working on ventilation effectiveness. His work aims to provide guidance for ensuring ventilation requirements are met all year round in naturally ventilated housing whilst minimising the energy penalty.
LoLo aims to produce world class research which is directly applicable to policy and industry. This is evident from the fact that our students’ work is directly addressing the needs that the Committee on Climate Change have set out for the housing sector. Our students are keen to make their work as impactful as possible so please get in touch with them via the hyperlinks provided if you are interested in learning more!