Heat wave risks and residential buildings

    Palmer, Jasmine
    Bennetts, Helen
    Chileshe, Nicholas
    Pullen, Stephen
    Zuo, Jian
    Architecture and the environment


The modelling of the global climate over the 21st century indicates various changes including sea level rise and an overall warming effect of between 1.4 to 5.8 deg C. The local effects of these long term global changes are currently being considered. One possible manifestation of climate change which is likely to have more significance than previously thought is that of heat waves. It is probable that more severe and frequent heat waves will pose an increasing risk to the occupants of buildings and the residents of the built environment in Australia and regions around the world. Recent heat waves have caused significant increases in morbidity and mortality as well as a range of disruptive effects in the urban environment and these are likely to become more severe and more frequent.

This paper reports on a research project which is aimed at determining possible design options for adapting residential buildings to more severe heat waves. Support for the project is from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. The focus of the research is on particular residents who are the more vulnerable in the community in terms of both health and financial resources. The paper reviews the past and future impacts of heat waves and the current mechanisms for dealing with their effects. Reference is made to the methods for maintaining cooler conditions before air conditioning was available in buildings as a pointer to possible solutions for the future. The paper concludes by suggesting a number of design options that can be considered to adapt dwellings to more severe heat wave conditions.

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