Society could fight future heatwaves with a radical shift in homebuilding

The rate at which heat pumps are installed almost doubled during 2021 in the UK. As a result, there will be many homes with new heat pumps, funded with public subsidies, that can only provide heating.

Better homes overall

This lack of foresight in national responses to climate change is frustrating. Insulating buildings would help permanently lower energy bills for millions, but the UK government has starved energy efficiency measures of resources over the past decade. Recently, plans were abandoned that would have doubled funding for low-income housesholds to become more energy efficient. Meanwhile, the UK’s newly built homes suffer from much of the same poor insulation as older ones.

Some countries are being more proactive. Italian homeowners can claim 110% of the cost of energy efficiency improvements against their taxes, up to €100,000 (£84,000) over five years. That is more than enough to upgrade a house to net-zero standard, estimated at £26,000 in the UK.

If homes need less energy to heat or cool because they have been made more energy efficient, it would help reduce (and perhaps even eradicate) fuel poverty. If they are able to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures and air quality through better ventilation, they can better accommodate people working or learning from home should there be another pandemic.

And, if the technology is powered by a dispersed renewable energy network, comprised of rooftop solar panels feeding excess energy to the grid, society will be more resilient to future spikes in the price of energy. Beyond any benefits these actions might have for tackling climate change, they simply reflect the reality of modern life.

The solutions are simple, but implementing them will be complex – all countries must coordinate their responses more effectively. A lot of money, both public and private, will be spent on cutting emissions to net zero. Unless countries plan for adapting to rising temperatures at the same time, the opportunity for more comfortable, resilient and liveable homes will be lost.

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