Drought prompts design-standard rethink for inefficient homes

The announcement of drought conditions across swathes of the UK has led to calls for a major rethink of how homes are designed.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) urged the next prime minister to incorporate measures to save water and energy into a new design standard for homes. 

Last week, it was revealed that water firms were anticipating drought conditions until early next year, with the UK having experienced one of its driest summers in 50 years. The majority of the UK’s regions have either declared a drought or are enduring prolonged dry weather.

UKGBC director of communications, policy and places, Simon McWhirter, said: “As prolonged spells of dry weather and drought become more common, our homes’ and buildings’ inefficient and wasteful approach to water use and conservation will become distressingly more evident. 

“Around 80 per cent of buildings and homes which stand today will still be occupied and inhabited in 2050.

“Preparing and adapting these buildings to reduce water demand, alongside energy use, is a vital part of the solution, and the most cost-effective and efficient way to conserve everyday water usage and reduce costs to consumers.”

Tackling the energy crisis and ensuring the UK can cope with extreme weather are considered priorities for the incoming prime minister. Conservative candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have faced calls for a new national home-insulation programme to improve energy efficiency. But the long-term need for greater water efficiency has received less political attention.

McWhirter said: “This should be an urgent policy priority for our future prime minister. Greater water efficiency must be designed into the forthcoming Future Homes Standard and building regulations to prevent new buildings from adding to the problem.

“We also urgently need a national strategy to upgrade the UK’s 29 million existing homes. This means ensuring they’re fitted with water-efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings, as well as ensuring they are well ventilated to prevent overheating in the summer and insulated for retaining heat in the winter.”

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