More than thirty percent of rental home dwellings in England face a significant likelihood of overheating, with temperatures exceeding 40°C, which is increasingly viewed as the new standard in the United Kingdom’s climatic conditions.
Research conducted by the Resolution Foundation think tank suggests that households in the lowest income bracket are disproportionately impacted, facing a threefold higher susceptibility compared to the wealthiest quintile.
The foundation’s analysis reveals that while twenty percent of residences in England presently experience overheating during summer months, the composition of the nation’s housing inventory implies that the proportion at substantial risk of overheating will rise to one in three homes in the upcoming years.
And it asserts that this situation places occupants in peril of potentially lethal heat exhaustion and heat stroke, in addition to heat-related heart and lung complications, sleep disruption, and challenges to mental well-being.
The proposal recommends an extension of the Decent Homes Standard, a legally binding baseline for housing quality presently applicable to social housing and projected to encompass private housing as well. This expansion would encompass the requirement for homes to avert excessive warmth during summer months, along with maintaining warmth during winter.
The foundation further indicates that the impending extreme temperature spikes will predominantly impact the nation’s most economically disadvantaged families. Presently, more than half (54%) of the least affluent quintile of English households reside in homes with a notable risk of overheating, in contrast to 18% of the most affluent fifth of households.
The foundation puts forward the notion that the type of housing plays a pivotal role in terms of the hazards associated with overheating. Flats and smaller dwellings, in particular, are more susceptible to these perils. Another point of concern is overcrowding, where properties accommodating more inhabitants, particularly those that are excessively populated, are also more prone to experiencing overheating.
Geographical location also emerges as a significant factor. The reason being that man-made structures such as roads, pathways, and buildings have a higher tendency to absorb and re-emit the sun’s warmth compared to natural elements like forests, water bodies, and other common features found in rural landscapes. Consequently, properties situated in urban environments and densely developed areas are more susceptible to ‘heat island’ phenomena, wherein they become notably warmer than their surroundings.
According to the foundation’s report, these distinctions in rental property type and location signify that individuals who do not possess their own homes, ethnic minority households, and families with young members are more inclined to reside in properties at risk of overheating.
Furthermore, the report highlights that nineteen percent of households with residents aged over 75, an age bracket where individuals struggle with maintaining body temperature equilibrium, are also located in properties susceptible to overheating.
Lastly, the report acknowledges that the ramifications of escalating temperatures extend beyond our residences; our workplaces are also poised to encounter perilously elevated heat levels. Approximately a quarter of UK labour force members, engaged in sectors where overheating presents a substantial hazard, are on the cusp of facing this challenge: individuals in physically demanding roles, including construction, outdoor labour like agriculture, or in environments generating heat such as manufacturing units and confined workspaces.
Given that age compounds the vulnerability to heat-related ailments, it is disconcerting to observe that nearly thirty-one percent of employees engaged in heat-exposed professions are above the age of 50.
Office workers too remain susceptible to overheating apprehensions: not all have the means to elude elevated temperatures at work. The prevalence of air-conditioned office premises varies, reaching a pinnacle of 29 percent in London and descending to 14 percent in Yorkshire and the Humber. This divergence extends to the socio-economic spectrum, encompassing 27 percent of establishments in the least deprived regions and 15 percent in the most deprived areas.
A representative remarks: “As summer temperatures surge to reach and surpass 40°C, becoming the new norm in the UK due to climate change, one of the prominent manners in which this change will affect the nation pertains to the heightened susceptibility to overheating. This susceptibility extends to both our domiciles and workplaces.
“However, the associated perils of these heightened temperatures won’t impact all households and employees in an equal manner. Those facing the greatest risks include households with lower incomes, renters, households from ethnic minorities, and families with young occupants. Additionally, individuals engaged in outdoor work or confined workspaces are notably at risk, which is further compounded by their older average age.
“Amidst their objective of achieving net zero emissions without unfairly burdening households with lower incomes, policymakers must also prioritise safeguarding people from the hazards brought about by climate change, encompassing the surge in summer temperatures.”
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