One of the things about the current hot weather is that you notice how much our buildings are designed for a particular climatic range. When designing details we concern ourselves with insulating from the cold and with water penetration to a very large extent. Go to the Greek islands say and it becomes perfectly acceptable to design buildings that have no cavity and very little in the way of water sealing. They work on the basis that if it rains it won’t last and it will quickly evaporate if it does whilst we are assuming a damp and cold climate. When we have weather that goes to the other extreme as we are now with this very hot spell then all that goes out the window and we start to resort to mechanical means for cooling our buildings.
This is all very well but if one accepts the process of global warming then increasing the use of air conditioning as a way of coping with such weather is the last thing we should do. Air conditioning is at least as polluting as heating, if not more so, in terms of the use of energy and materials. If we are going to see more summers like this then we will need to change the way we build. Designing for climate ought to take place from the very beginning if it is to have the maximum benefit. Small well sealed windows are great in the middle of a cold winter but in a hot summer you want large open areas to allow air movement. The problem arises that you are trying to achieve things that require opposite solutions.
Eco homes should not just be about saving energy in winter but, if they are to be a real method for minimising pollution, also in hot summers. The very layout of the building will need to become part of the solution. This is often found in more traditional dwellings around the world but as we have become a more technological society we have shifted to mechanical systems to solve our heating and cooling problems. How much longer is that going to be acceptable and how quickly will the construction industry react should this summer turn out not to be an exception but the rule?