LONDON, July 5, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
Inadequate building regulations and poorly conceived design are proving costly for the health & wellbeing of inner-city residents and the economy itself, a study by consulting engineers and designers Hoare Lea shows.
As the recent heatwave demonstrated, extreme heat is no longer a freak occurrence in the UK. Overheating, alongside the issue of indoor air quality, is now considered one of the key risks to health and wellbeing in the built environment. This study demonstrates how the two factors could cause drastic human and economic consequences.
On 19 July 2016, the UK Office for National Statistics reported "an unusual peak in mortality". As temperatures in the UK that day soared to a high of 33.5˚C, outstripping those in the Sahara Desert, a total of 1,661 people were recorded as having died in England and Wales, the biggest summer one-day total in 13 years.
It's our cities, where 90% of the UK population is predicted to live by 2050, that will bear the brunt of the heat's impact on both a human and economic scale. Global warming and the urban heat island effect can result in temperatures 10°C warmer in the centre of London than surrounding rural areas.
In a recent study, consulting engineers Hoare Lea estimated that the potential cost associated with health impacts from overheating in London housing stock is around £400 million per year - and are now calling on the building industry to adopt more appropriate regulations, as well as for more "critical" thinking.
Evidence from NHBC Foundation and BRE, among others, has shown the various influencing factors that makes overheating a real risk for homes. Diana Sanchez, Associate at Hoare Lea, says: "Our study highlights that inadequate provision in the design of homes can lead to adverse effects on health, which can have a significant consequential economic cost."
Opening the window to problems
Natural ventilation - particularly the preference for opening windows - remains a common option to manage overheating in homes. However, in our urban centres where proximity to transport links is an expected convenience, this can expose occupants to unhealthy levels of noise.
"The case for noise and overheating is one example of how compliance to standards on one matter fails to provide a healthy environment when considering the other," says Barry Jobling, a Technical Director at Hoare Lea. "Part of the problem is the increased specialisation in building design and compliance with often disconnected regulations. This has led to treating the indoor environmental parameters as separate in spite of their interdependence."
Counting the cost of design decisions
The Hoare Lea study sought to measure costs for two hypothetical scenarios in London - one, where all dwellings have their windows closed, noise is not a problem but heat might be; the other where windows are opened for relief of overheating but noise is excessive for a proportion of properties. The team at Hoare Lea estimates the potential cost associated with impacts from overheating in London at around £400 million per year, while the accumulative cost of road traffic noise on sleep disturbance, annoyance and coronary heart disease is estimated at almost £1 billion per year.
To put these numbers in context, the potential estimated cost of noise within London dwellings would represent around 10% of total NHS budget allocation for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in London, while the cost of overheating would be 4% in one year.
While Jobling warns that it is not possible to absolutely quantify the value of a specific health effect, the monetary values presented by the study of hypothetical scenarios in London should, he says, be used to enhance our understanding of trends. "The process serves to illustrate how making inadequate provision in the design of new homes, which leads to people suffering excess heat or noise and adverse health effects, can consequently result in an economic cost. Monetary values provide a common language, helping to improve the communication and consideration of these aspects during the design process."
"Our study suggests that the accumulated 10-year cost for the effects of noise is valued at £141 million due to new homes only . For overheating, this cost is about £54 million," explains Diana Sanchez. "Quite clearly these are significant costs. If we had improved design and better connected regulations, the saving from this problem area would be welcomed by both occupants and under pressure health-service budgets."
With Government targeting a million new homes by 2020, the input of building environment engineers to the design process is integral. Jobling says: "For me, the key is to enable a constructive dialogue between architects and engineers as early in the process as possible. This dialogue should be based on a common goal: designing a healthy environment for people."
Hoare Lea press contact:
Rich Harryman, Senior Marketing Coordinator
SOURCE Hoare Lea