Over 4.6 million English homes experience summertime overheating, new study finds

As the UK bakes in a record-breaking heatwave, academics at Loughborough University have shared the results of the largest and most comprehensive study to date looking at overheating in English homes.

The summer of 2018 saw temperatures far above the long-term average in the Northern Hemisphere. It was England’s hottest ever summer, with four heat waves resulting in 1,067 excess deaths. The temperatures experienced in 2018 were typical of those the country is expected to reach by the 2050s.

In this latest study, led by Loughborough University and in partnership with the BRE (Building Research Establishment), summertime overheating in 750 English homes was assessed through both monitoring and questionnaires.

Weighting the results to the national housing stock, the study revealed that 4.6million English bedrooms (19% of the stock) and 3.6million living rooms (15%) overheated.

The other key findings from the study were:

  • Overheating was more prevalent in bedrooms at night than in living rooms during the day.
  • The prevalence of living room overheating was significantly greater in flats (30%) than other dwelling types.
  • Improved fabric energy efficiency did not significantly increase the risk of overheating.
  • The prevalence of monitored overheating was greater in households living in social housing, with low incomes or with members aged over state pension age.

The research team are calling for action to be taken to mitigate the risks associated with increased summertime temperatures in existing homes. This includes better control over the methods of construction and refurbishment of flats; targeted public health messaging around overheating especially for those most at risk; and a call to building professionals to design and refurbish dwellings which are cool in summer as well as warm in winter.

Speaking about the study, research lead Professor Kevin Lomas from Loughborough’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, said: “With global temperatures likely to be 1.5 ◦C above pre-industrial levels by 2052, the threats posed by climate change are of world-wide concern. Heatwaves will increase in frequency, intensity, and duration, and so will the health risks associated with them.

“With the majority of fatal heat exposures in developed nations occurring indoors, the findings of our study show just how many homes in England are at risk of overheating. With the most vulnerable members of our society – the elderly, the very young, those living in deprived areas, and those with chronic physical and/or mental health conditions – being most at risk, action needs to be taken now to mitigate the dangers increased temperatures will bring.”

The research paper ‘Dwelling and household characteristics’ influence on reported and measured summertime overheating: A glimpse of a mild climate in the 2050’s’ is published in the international journal Building and Environment. Further information about Loughborough's research in this area can be found here.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 21/137

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.