More than 570,000 new homes have been built in England since 2017 without protection against rising temperatures, a report from the Climate Change Committee has found.
With at least 1.5m further homes due to be built across the UK in the next five years, the committee warned that millions of people will be left vulnerable to overheating if planning policy is not adapted immediately.
The report is the committee's third “advice to government” document detailing the UK’s current climate risks.
It found that the government’s response to climate risks is failing to keep up with the pace of the crisis.
It further concluded that a rise in average temperature is inevitable in the coming years even if emissions pledges such as the Paris Agreement are honoured.
The committee warned that thousands of homes are being built without factoring these rising temperatures into their design, running the risk of becoming “largely uninhabitable” in the near future.
Policies to address overheating risks in buildings are “still missing in spite of being one of the top risks in all UK climate risk assessments published to date,” said the report, which is due to be presented to the UK government on Wednesday (June 16).
“More than 300,000 homes are due to be built each year across the UK and there is a major risk of lock-in if they are not planned and built to address overheating alongside energy efficiency and low-carbon heating,” it added.
They further warned that the cost of retrofitting homes to make them more resilient to high temperatures far exceeds the cost of including adaptive design from the start.
The cost of retrofitting windows and shutters to deflect heat, for instance, is estimated as four times more expensive than including them at the design stage.
Illness and death from high temperatures is set to become more common, found the report, with those who have existing heart and respiratory conditions particularly vulnerable.
Heat-related deaths have already risen in recent years, with more than 2,500 recorded during the 2020 heatwave - the highest number since records began in 2003.
The committee estimated that heat-related deaths could more than triple by 2050 if measures, such as building climate-resilient homes, are not implemented.
“Risks to human health, wellbeing and productivity from increased exposure to heat in homes and other buildings” was identified in the report as one of eight climate-related “risk areas” which require the most urgent attention in the next two years.
The others include risks to habitat and animal species, soil health and carbon stores and sequestration.
The report consulted with 450 experts from 130 organisations to assess the UK’s climate risks, and warned that the government must act now if the most severe impacts of the climate crisis are to be avoided.
“[The government] must deliver a much better action plan to support good adaptation planning across the UK and integrate this into all relevant Government plans and policies,” said Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee.
“The Government has to date not heeded the CCC’s advice on the importance of this plan or on funding it adequately. This needs to change,” she added.