Better building design could help mitigate the dangers of cold snaps

85 years of simulated weather to aid building design

Simulations of the next 85 years of weather in the UK will help engineers understand how extreme weather interacts with different building designs.

Scientists at the University of Bath and Exeter University will create simulated weather conditions up until 2100 based on past data and climate change predictions, which will include both typical British weather as well as extreme events such as cold snaps and heat waves.

Divided into hourly units and covering the whole of the UK down to a resolution of 5km this data will enable them to evaluate more than 1,200 building designs to establish how external temperature, wind and sun cause issues for people living inside, such as over demand on heating and air conditioning.

"In western civilisations we know the greatest contributors to weather-related deaths are short-term extreme temperature changes, including both increases and decreases," said Professor David Coley of the University of Bath, who is leading the project.

"These temporary temperature variations account for more weather-related deaths than all other weather events combined including lighting strikes, rain, flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes.

"It is important that we recognise the role buildings play in responding to and dealing with extreme weather conditions - buildings can keep people alive during extreme weather events, but they can also kill.

"The time series of example hourly weather we are devising in conjunction with testing these variations on different building designs will help us to better develop building designs that can safely and comfortably house occupants and avoid weather-related preventable deaths in the future."

The team has been awarded a grant of £1m by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to create the 85-year simulation as concerns grow over increasingly extreme weather attributed by some to global climate change.

More than 70,000 people died across Europe in 2003 due to a widespread heatwave and Coley said that the cause of the deaths was not just the extreme weather conditions but the designs of buildings not being resilient enough to cope with them and protect occupants.

The UK's reliance on imported gas and recent political tensions with Russia have also led to growing concerns about what might happen in homes if the energy grid was disrupted during a cold snap, with people left in rapidly cooling homes, he added.

A spokesman for the University of Bath added: "It is widely accepted that climate change will have a significant impact on UK building design and energy use in the near and distant future.

"With predicted temperature changes being large enough to make some buildings become uncomfortable or even fail certain regulations, the need for a better understanding of future weather trends in relation to building design is imperative in ensuring buildings become sustainable."

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