Cooling Culture: The identification of, and barriers to, adaptive responses to domestic overheating
Daniel Wright, Loughborough University
The trend towards hotter summers and warmer winters is predicted to increase risk to domestic food production, intensify likelihood of water shortages, and jeopardise public health and well-being.
In August 2003, there were over 20,000 heat-related deaths across Europe attributed to a heat wave. Of these, approximately 2,000 occurred in the UK. Investigations found that a considerable proportion of these deaths occurred amongst the elderly living in their own home. An ageing population in the UK means that in the next decades overheating will likely become and considerable risk factor for many more people.
Modelling studies have shown that dwellings preferred by many older people, such as accessible single-floor dwellings may be more susceptible to overheating due to the proximity of the internal envelope to the roof space. Monitoring studies have identified that newly built homes that comply with modern building regulations are also at risk of overheating as an unexpected consequence of improved insulation and a renewed focus on air tightness which was specified to reduce winter space heating requirement.
The passive actions that occupants take to reduce thermal discomfort in their home environment are termed adaptive actions. Existing research into adaptive actions available to occupants suggests that refraining from opening windows when external temperatures are higher than internal temperatures could result in an up to 30% reduction in exposure to temperatures that fall within the range of overheating. However, it could be proposed that this is not necessarily an intuitive occupier response to overheating. For example, the findings of an investigation into inhabitant actions related to overheating revealed that most participants reported opening all windows when it was a hot day.
This project is a mixed-methods approach to exploring the ‘what can you do?’, ‘what do you do?’ and ‘why do you not?’ of occupant behaviour in the context of how overheating might be mitigated in the home. Research questions include:
- What opportunities and barriers to mitigating overheating in the home can be assessed using a physical survey approach?
- What actions do occupants report taking when indoor temperatures are elevated?
- Are occupants aware of best practice strategies for cooling their home?