There has been much discussion recently as to whether the industry’s drive for greater thermal efficiency in building has led to overheating in homes.
Rob Pannell, managing director of the Zero Carbon Hub and Mike Stevenson, development director for offsite fenestration specialists Sidey and founding partner of the Fabric First Academy, sought to address the question.
MIKE: Is it really the case that the drive for greater thermal efficiency in building has led to an unforeseen problem, namely overheating?
ROB: It might seem like an odd subject considering that for years’ architects, designers and specifiers have all been pushing as hard as they can to deliver the most thermally efficient homes they can. But the reality is that there is an estimated 20% of homes currently overheating in the UK with the potential for more in the future.
MIKE: What are the implications for homeowners and for the buildings in this situation?
ROB: The implications for homeowners of their buildings overheating are numerous – it can have a very negative effect on their physical well-being as well as there being negative consequences for the physical structure and the individual components within it.
We are clearly now seeing homes with inside temperatures beyond those highlighted as comfortable in the Government’s ‘Housing Health and Safety Ratings System’.
MIKE: Is this perhaps an unforeseen consequence of the problems which architects and specifiers face when trying to include a suite of energy efficient products in their designs without necessarily having recourse to the information to understand what the impacts of using them together will be?
ROB: I think a recent survey which we carried out would tend to support that view. It is incredibly important that those who are building homes, commercial bed space and in fact any building for occupation have a proper process in place to assess the impact of the products they choose, how they work together and to understand the potential for them to cause over-heating in buildings.
When we carried out the survey there were close to 40% of those who responded who did not have any process in place to assess the potential for over-heating, while many of the others relied on the experience of their staff to make a judgement rather than having a formal process.
MIKE: Is the answer to this then for suppliers to have more design team involvement earlier in the process? Like many other suppliers over the past few years we have constantly been tasked to provide ever more energy efficient products to the market.
In our role as a supplier over that timeframe though and in our role as a supporter of the Fabric First Academy, which is designed to provide some of the much needed education to architects and specifiers, there is one thing that we have constantly championed – to be included from the outset as a part of the design team on major projects.
The issue of over-heating in homes simply reinforces our belief that we – and the other major suppliers to the fabric on a project need earlier involvement in the design process so that we can play a part in discussing the interface of materials and the effect of using certain products in combination with one another.
ROB: It is a really valid point that you make in terms of design team involvement and a proper assessment of the properties of products which are specified for use together.
The bottom line is that as with most things in life, prevention is better than cure, and working together with design teams is the surest way to ensure that the problem of overheating does not occur in the first place.
Overheating in homes is a real issue; it won’t go away by chance; it needs proper processes to ensure that it is designed out before the build process takes place.
The full report along with other key documents from the Zero Carbon Hub can be downloaded from the Fabric First Academy website www.fabricfirstacademy.co.uk