I appreciate that you’re reading this after a weekend of heavy rain and flooding…
Just in case you didn’t know, or you have been asleep for the past week. Its been hot. Damn hot! So hot in fact, that the Met Office has tweeted to say they have had provisional data from Cambridge that says they recorded a temperature of 38.7C, which if confirmed would be a new all-time record for the UK.
This same week saw other records fall in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. This is the second major heatwave for Europe in a matter of weeks, and the first major one of the summer for the UK.
Generally speaking, the last few weeks has seen a decent summer for the UK. It had a slow start but its here now, and we’ll be all glad of the rain and lower temperatures we’ve had over the weekend.
That being said, we’re seeing the strength of heatwaves increase year after year. We’ve always had heatwaves, but its the nature of them, and the frequency that is on the increase in the UK. We have been warned to expect more of it in the years to come.
So, from an industry point of view, do we need to be taking into account new climate extremes?
My short answer to that question is yes. Its well known that last year during the course of the very long and hot summer we had, there were a large number of doors that bowed because of the prolonged heat. Generally it was the foam-filled composite slabs which couldn’t cope. But bi-folds and other types of entrance doors struggled in the heat as well.
Its safe to assume then that after the record breaking heat of this past week, doors will have been under the strain once again as they experienced temperatures rarely seen in the UK.
That however is the point. The temperatures we rarely see in the UK are more likely to occur on a regular basis going forwards, even in the short to medium term. And it’s not just in the UK. Much of Europe has baked. And 147 million people in the US last week were under heat advisories as they experienced intense heatwaves too.
And it’s not just heat. Our winters are likely to be just as more extreme, be it with more rain and flooding, or cold temperatures, or snow and ice. Therefore, it makes sense that as an industry, we ought now to be looking at ways our windows and doors can cope with new weather extremes. The demands on our windows and doors are changing as the years roll on, so if they are going to be suitable for homes and home owners in the years when climate change is really going to bite, our industry needs to start looking at new innovations to help our products withstand the new extreme normals.
A time to change
We often say in this country that we’re ill-prepared when it comes to extreme weather. In the round, that is correct. In Russia you don’t see traffic come to a standstill when a couple of inches of snow falls. In Australia you don’t see train lines buckling when it gets a bit hot. In America nearly every home and building has aircon fitted as standard. Perhaps we need to look at ourselves and learn to adapt to our changing climate.
It’s going to be colder, wetter, hotter and dryer. It means our windows and doors are going to have to adapt to be able to cope. What we don’t want are millions of homes with doors that expand so much that they can’t be locked. Or windows that generate too much heat if they’re not covered internally that it makes the insides of homes way too warm
We perhaps need to be looking at the materials they’re made from. Can we invent even better foils which resist heat better than they do now. Skins for composite doors that also keep the heat away better than they do now. Could we look at producing new composite materials which are better able to cope with heat and reduce expansion?
The fenestration sector needs to look at what it can do to better cope with changing climate conditions. But it should only form part of a wider effort to make homes more livable in extreme conditions. For example, we live in a new-build home with a B+ energy rating. On Thursday when we saw the heat records fall, it was 31 degrees celsius inside our lounge and bedroom. We have a three week old baby who sleeps in the same room, and a couple of chinchillas who shouldn’t really be above 22 degrees else risk pegging it. Whilst the ability for our house to retain the heat it generates is great in the middle of January when its 2 degrees and raining sideways, in the middle of summer its going to be an issue.
Other than keeping the windows and doors closed at certain periods, the fans on, the curtains closed, there was no genuinely effective way to ventilate the house well enough to keep it cool. I think if we’re going to have these extreme temperatures more often, new-builds needs to be fitted with airconditioning in the same way other countries with naturally hotter climates do, like the US for example. It may seem like a bit of a jump to suddenly start saying we need aircon in homes in the UK, but how many of you would have paid good money to have it included last week? I can guarantee a lot of you, especially on a night when its impossible to sleep!
In the meantime, if your door has expanded and it won’t shut, water it!
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