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Climate change risks and how HQM can help

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have released their independent analysis of the priorities for the next five years.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have released their independent analysis of the priorities for the next five years. The report outlines the work and research needed in order to respond to climate change in the UK.  Unsurprisingly, both flooding and the impacts of high temperatures on health top the risks of climate change.

Resilience against flooding is well recognised in the Home Quality Mark (HQM), BRE’s new certification scheme for new homes in the UK and the rest of BREEAM. These schemes promote buildings that apply best practice when dealing with flood risk and excessive rainfall, with the most recognition being given to developments that allow for the increased risk associated with climate change.

We’ve already seen examples of the devastation flooding can bring to communities in the UK with the floods in the last year including ‘the wettest December in a century’, as reported by the BBC. This is something that is very much in the public mind, with record-breaking weather being reported on a relatively frequent basis and flooding being a concern to many. Indeed, in a recent survey of over 700 participants conducted by BRE, 43% of participants said resistance to flooding was “very important” and 39% said it was “a necessity”, when looking to buy or rent a new home.

Building homes to be resilient against these kinds of events, which are only expected to increase, is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity for now and in the future.

Overheating and poor air quality are also important areas that the Committee’s report highlight. Overheating in homes, or long periods of dangerously high temperatures, already poses a significant risk to people’s health and wellbeing, with 2000 people a year dying prematurely from heat-related deaths, in the UK. The CCC’s report suggests this number is expected to ‘more than triple by the 2050s’ (page 4 of the report), as a result of increasing temperatures and an ageing population.

So while energy efficiency is essential to reducing carbon emissions, keeping people warm and reducing running costs, resilience against overheating and good ventilation are also key for a sustainable home that is resilient to future pressures.  Home Quality Mark provides a framework to ensure that we build homes with reduced risks of overheating.

With ongoing concerns of air pollution and increasingly airtight buildings, effective and efficient ventilation is also a key component for realising sustainable and healthy homes. This is encapsulated in UKGBC’s recent publication ‘Health and wellbeing in homes’ and fits in well with HQM’s specific focus on health and wellbeing as one of its three performance indicators, which recognises homes that are healthy to live, considering aspects of: ventilation, daylight access, air quality, local access, temperature, security and flood risk.

Developing sustainable, quality homes therefore doesn’t stop at energy efficiency but extends to a host of other areas including: low embodied impact, ecological protection, high standards of workmanship, greater occupant awareness and ensuring meaningful communication at all stages of development from design to in-use (e.g. as seen with standards like BSRIA’s soft landings).

Taking a holistic view is key to realising genuinely sustainable outcomes to promote homes that are healthy and resilient to future conditions, as well as being energy efficient, cheap to run with a low environmental impact.

The CCC go onto discuss various opportunities associated with climate change including milder winters that are expected to reduce heating costs and health issues associated with cold temperatures. This reiterates the importance of building for the future, with ‘more energy expected to be used for cooling than heating, globally over the next century’ (reported in Guardian 2015).

Either way the message is clear and already well voiced, that we need to make changes now to mitigate the future risks of climate change.  HQM certification provides a trustworthy way for consumers and investors to understand if their new build home is going to be at risk to extreme weather in the future.