UCL Grand Challenges


Futureproofing care settings for people with epilepsy under climate change

An interdisciplinary project evaluating the risks of overheating in care settings for epilepsy in the UK under a warming climate.

A thermometer reaching high temperatures with the sun in the background

1 September 2022


Grant: Grand Challenges Special Initiatives— Climate Crisis
Year awarded: 2022-23
Amount awarded: £9,993.77


  • Dr Anna Mavrogianni, The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, The Bartlett
  • Prof Sanjay Sisodiya, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, Brain Sciences

Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disease. Ambient temperatures and the frequency and severity of excess heat episodes are projected to increase because of climate change. UK’s record-breaking 40 degrees Celsius heatwave in 2022 may be more frequent in the coming decades. Under the changing climate, indoor overheating in care settings is becoming a growing problem. In epilepsy care facilities, high temperatures have been found to increase seizure activity. This interdisciplinary project was built on an existing collaboration between the UCL Institute of Neurology, the Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy and the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering to evaluate the risks of overheating in care settings for epilepsy in the UK under a warming climate.

The Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy was used as a case study to analyse the current levels of overheating risk through a questionnaire survey with frontline care staff and indoor hygrothermal monitoring. Staff perceive residents as having increased sensitivity to heat. The residents have limited ability to adjust their thermal environment and, in some cases, limited ability to communicate thermal discomfort. Currently, the monitoring data indicated that many rooms overheat indoors and exceed recommended summer upper thermal discomfort thresholds, which could lead to adverse effects on health. Occupants rely on simple ventilation strategies to mitigate heat risks, but the ventilation may become ineffective under a changing climate. 

Further quantitative data was generated on the thermal performance of the case study care settings through collaboration with two MSc students, using dynamic thermal simulation and climate change scenario data. Modelling indicated that night ventilation was the most effective individual strategy, with the largest reduction in overheating hours. The most effective combination was shading, ventilation, spectrally selective, low e-double glazing, and high albedo materials.  

Dr Mavogianni and Prof Sisodiya have organised an event titled ‘Rare and Hot’, which will take place at the Chalfont Centre on 20 March 2024. The audience will primarily consist of people representing Rare Diseases charities, communities, and public health stakeholders. The event will raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on people with rare diseases, leading to incorporating climate change issues into the Rare Disease Framework. 

Outputs and Impacts