The conversation around climate action in a residential context often centres on how we can design more energy-efficient buildings.
Designing in energy efficiency is a vital part of delivering net-zero targets, but the ongoing need to tackle the climate’s growing impact on our homes as we live in them is too often overlooked.
We only have to think back to last summer’s record-breaking temperatures to see that our properties are going to experience much harsher conditions in the future. To provide homes that will be comfortable, as well as greener and cheaper to run, we have to design resilience into our housing stock.
The current focus on effective insulation must be paired with greater consideration of the year-round performance of materials and systems and how they interact with each other. A well-insulated house might be efficient to warm in winter but could overheat in the summer, unless ventilation and solar heating have been taken into account.
This scrutiny is important to ensure user comfort and also to avoid the need to retrofit more energy-intensive cooling systems. Homes full of air-conditioning units will only set us back in the battle against carbon.
It is about thinking smartly and in the round. As an industry, we need to be open to new solutions, materials and systems that can improve climate resilience and tackle energy usage. Retractable or fixed external shading, for example, maximises efficiency in both hot and cold conditions by adapting to different temperatures and the position of the sun.
The problem is that these design features are often dismissed by teams as they are considered to be more expensive, higher maintenance or just unfamiliar. We must do more to encourage consumers to be more open-minded about housing features, too.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt and time is not a luxury we can afford. It is only by embracing new approaches that we will deliver homes that are greener, more efficient and able to cope with the climate challenges of the future.
Marguerita Chorafa is associate environmental designer and analyst at engineering consultant Introba UK