Heatwave weather warning: How home design can keep you cool despite the Met Office weather warning for extreme heat


Scotland is very unlikely to reach the scorch felt by the south east of England in the next few days, but the mercury hitting 20 degrees here is quite unusual for our bodies, more used to donning thermal vests and anoraks in July, to undergo a kind of shock.

The problems these weather conditions cause are almost all because the nation is simply not used to them, and that includes the way our homes are designed.

With increasingly volatile global temperatures, building homes that are cool in summer and warm in winter is increasingly important in the UK.

Technology is helping – photovoltaic panels for power generation, solar thermal panels for heat collection and windows optimized to capture and retain the sun’s heat will harness energy in the right direction – but these measures can be very expensive.

There are simpler solutions. Homes can be designed to regulate temperature, and for the best ideas, we should take a lesson from the ancients.

Islamic architects discovered a millennium ago that high walls, evaporative cooling towers and shaded courtyards with fountains are the passive way to cope with extreme heat.

But the creators of the Alhambra Palace probably didn’t have to worry about four months of freezing drizzle with only a few hours of light a day, as those of us who live in Scotland inevitably do.

Illustration: Adobe Stock

However, other early innovators had to deal with more extreme temperature variations.

Around AD 700, cliff dwellers in what is now the U.S. state of Colorado, where it can be very hot in summer and freezing in winter, had figured out how to build houses shaded from the August sun, but fully exposed on its shelves in December. heat stones for warmth.

And the same basic principles apply today. Passive heating and cooling in homes is simply about figuring out where the sun exposure will be at different times of the year and making the best use of it.

The seasonal position of the sun means that in winter it is low and will reach far into a house, and in summer it is high overhead and easy to keep shaded.

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So the easiest way to take advantage of this is to figure out where the sun is and orient your windows accordingly. Adding deep roof overhangs can help keep it naturally cool when the sun is high.

The deciduous trees surrounding a property can provide shade in the summer as well as warmth in the winter after the leaves have fallen, acting as nature’s seasonal curtains.

Retrofitting passive measures in an older home can be tricky, but awnings on the outside are better than blinds on the inside, which can trap hot air that circulates next.

However, properly insulating our homes – whether new construction or older traditional property – will reap most of the dividends.

With utility prices reaching record highs, many are considering upgrading insulation before winter, where possible.

Doing it now, rather than in October, means our homes stay cool no matter how hot it gets.

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