UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Assessing heat-related thermal discomfort and indoor pollutant exposure risk in purpose-built flats in an urban area


6 September 2013

The projected climate change-induced rise in external temperatures is expected to lead to an increase of excess heat-related health risks. The comfort and health impacts associated with a warming climate for city dwellers, in particular, is of increasing concern due to interconnected phenomena, such as the urban heat island, social deprivation and synergistic effects of heat waves and outdoor air pollution. Among the most severely affected are expected to be the elderly, the chronically ill and the socially deprived population groups of the inner cities. Whilst there has been a wealth of studies to date investigating the health effects of outdoor weather and pollution, the impact of indoor environment exposure is poorly understood. Furthermore, the majority of existing indoor environment modelling studies assume ‘standard occupancy’ profiles, which may be markedly different to the lifestyle of elderly, more vulnerable individuals. This paper presents preliminary results of an investigation of the summertime indoor overheating risk and air pollutant levels in three of the commonest purpose-built flat typologies in England (1965-1974 high-rise, 1965-1974 low-rise and post- 1990 low-rise flats) using the dynamic and multizone thermal, airflow and contaminant transport analysis software EnergyPlus. The internal heat and indoor pollutant generation was estimated using the underlying assumption that the spaces were heavily occupied during the daytime (elderly occupants and/or occupants with mobility issues), taking into account window opening restrictions in urban environments. It was shown that indoor overheating risk is higher in mid and top floor flats and that temperatures generally decreased following the energy efficient retrofit of properties. PM2.5 infiltration was found to be higher in top floor flats, and in flats with a larger exposed external façade to internal volume ratio. The findings of this study aim to enhance our understanding of indoor environment quality in dwellings occupied by vulnerable individuals and could have broader implications for urban public health policy and retrofit practice in social housing.

Assessing heat-related thermal discomfort and indoor pollutant exposure risk in purpose-built flats in an urban area.

Mavrogianni, A., Davies, M., Taylor, J., Oikonomou, E., Raslan, R., Biddulph, P., ...Shrubsole, C. (2013)

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