Diary | 2nd July 2021 | Newton Abbot, Devon
07:56 – 12ºC, blue sky, slightly hazy, negligible breeze, dry.
Thankfully, unlike the Pacific north west in the USA and Canada, it is very pleasant here. The temperatures they are seeing are very high indeed and very scary, not just for human health but also for the infrastructure that helps to keep us alive.
We have known for some decades that extreme weather events will become more common and quite possibly more extreme as we work through the 21st century. We have also known that some parts of the planet that are highly populated will become uninhabitable, creating very high levels of emigration.
Twenty-five years ago I knew that we should start building the homes of the future and that they would need to be resilient to climate change but, with very few exceptions, we continue to build homes that will fail us and future generations. Homes that will not protect us from extremes of heat and cold and high winds. We continue to build, of all the most stupid things imaginable, on flood plains.
Our homes exist, at a fundamental level, to protect us from the elements. They will be less able to do this as climate change brings more extreme weather in the decades to come. Many Canadians and Americans have recently learned this as lucky ones headed for ‘cooling centres’ (like that at the top of this page) to survive the heat.
But it is not only homes that are affected. We all learned at school about the expansion of metals and other materials when heat is applied. Imagine the damage that can be done to roads, railway tracks and bridges. As you can see in the tweet, our energy infrastructure can also be quite seriously damaged.
Our homes must be able to protect us from greater extremes of heat and cold and minimise our dependence on energy. In my view they should also offer a degree of autonomy, which produce some – if not all- of the energy and water we need. I never doubted that we could continue to live quite comfortably well into the future, but we need homes that can enable this and infrastructures that can support them.
After 25 years we are no closer to building homes that will protect us from climate change, despite the fact that we know how to do this. The majority of homes built 25 years ago, and indeed on this very day, will still be standing at the end of the 21st century. And the majority of the homes that I have seen built in my professional career – and even today within a few hundred metres of my home – are built to a poor standard. Why are we punishing future generations so harshly? The sermon preached by so many volume house builders in Britain is “we are building the houses that people want”, to which I say, with all due deference, “bollocks”.
I have worked in the field of energy and energy efficiency since 1996, branching out into related areas of climate change, sustainable housing and fuel poverty. I was only too well aware of all the good ideas and technologies that were around 25 years ago, and which have been developed since, and which have so often come to nothing. It is quite distressing to see the so-called ‘advanced’ nations sleepwalking into an inevitable disaster whilst knowing what the solutions are, and dragging the whole planet, including those of us who do our best to prevent it, towards disaster.