Legislation is in place to ensure that new houses are being effectively designed to optimise their efficiency and minimise their carbon footprint.
Good design must ensure that these homes are not just efficient, comfortable and safe in today's climate but remain so throughout their lifetime. This means that houses should be designed using weather information that represents the future climate and not just historical weather observations.
The challenge is to create effective, durable and adaptable buildings that:
are weather and climate resistant or resilient;
reduce energy consumption;
reduce the amount of carbon emissions, during build and after.
Average temperatures in the UK and Europe are likely to increase more than the global average through the 21st century.
Heatwaves are very likely to increase in frequency, intensity and duration, increasing the need for cooler buildings during the summer.
The number of frost days is very likely to decrease with reduced winter heating requirements.
As temperatures rise there is more chance of soil drying out during spring and summer. Foundations in clay soils could be at particular risk. We are already seeing the effects - over the period 1987-1997 (the warmest decade on record) subsidence in the south-east alone cost the insurance industry £4.5 billion.
The summer flooding of 2007 raised awareness that many current housing developments are at risk because of where and how they are built. Following the review into this flooding we set up the Flood Forecasting Centre with the Environment Agency, pooling our knowledge of weather and climate and their knowledge of flooding.
Increases in total winter rainfall and more intense summer downpours will increase flood risk in some areas. The damage caused by flooding normally affects buildings and their contents at basement and ground level. The amount of damage caused depends on the level that the water reaches within the property, but the cost of repair can be £30,000.
The large amount of impervious material within towns and cities provides limited drainage routes for rainfall, particularly during intense downpours. The incorporation of green spaces and gardens are important for urban drainage.
Between 1990 and 2000 weather-related insurance claims in the UK ranged between £360 million and £2.1 billion per year.
Typical storm damage is breakage or removal of roof tiles and slates, or even the removal of an entire roof. Gable walls can also suffer damage due to suction forces. In general, tiles located at the eaves, verge and hip are most at risk because the wind uplift forces are greatest. The greater the pitch the smaller the risk - zero at a pitch of around 30 degrees.
Prolonged periods of rainfall can lead to some lighter-weight tiles becoming unexpectedly heavier due to water absorption. In extreme cases this can cause the roof to collapse.
Rising sea levels combined with the possibility for more extreme surge events will increase the risk of flooding, land-loss and the destruction of property in some coastal areas.
There are around 25 million dwellings in Britain and they consume three times more energy than all our cars. Of those more than 18 million were built before 1980, therefore before the impacts we are having on the climate were widely acknowledged.
Modern, small, semi-detached and terraced houses tend to be more energy efficient than older, larger detached houses. Houses with cavity walls and roof spaces have an advantage over the nearly seven million with solid walls.
If no action is taken to mitigate current trends in energy consumption the amount of terawatt hours (TWh) a year our homes consume could rise by 21% over the next decade. The average household currently consumes around 3880 kWh per year on electricity alone.
Up to 90% of the UK population are estimated to reside within urban or sub-urban areas. The collection of buildings and other structures in these urban areas result in significant changes to the local climate. The most apparent expression of this is commonly known as the urban heat island effect, where towns and cities are measurably warmer than surrounding rural areas, particularly at night. This increased thermal stress can put additional strain on people, materials, and buildings.
Our climate scientists are currently working with building scientists to assess how urban climates might change in the future and provide a tool that planners and architects can use to assess how this will affect their choice of materials, techniques, and even designs.
By designing our buildings and neighbourhoods appropriately we have the capacity to influence both global climate change, and the immediate climates we experience within our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods.
Using ultra-thick insulation and complex doors and windows, the home is encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes nor cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants' bodies. To find out more about passive houses visit the inventor's website.
In the future the most successful ways to cool houses will be:
Shading from the sun.
Using controllable ventilation during the day and high levels of ventilation at night (without compromising security).
Using heavier weight building materials combined with night ventilation, enabling heat to be absorbed and released into the building fabric.
Improving insulation and air tightness (e.g. cutting down on draughts) which enables undesirable heat flows to be controlled.