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Melbourne apartments are failing the heat stress test, study finds

Fiona Pepper, Thursday March 16, 2017 - 13:37 EDT
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Would your apartment pass a heat stress test? - ABC licensed

Many of Melbourne's apartment blocks depend entirely on air conditioning for cooling, failing to meet overheating tests adhered to across Europe and the US, researchers have found.

The found that if a power blackout was to hit in the middle of a heatwave, the majority of the city's apartment buildings and occupants would roast.



According to a 2016 , heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural hazard.

Lead researcher and construction scientist Chris Jensen modelled how six common Melbourne apartment designs could cope with extremely high temperatures like those experienced in .

What he found was that all six designs failed to keep internal temperatures below limits set in France, the UK, Germany and the US.

The worst performing designs were often older west-facing concrete constructions.

A lack of ventilation, the orientation of the apartment block and the construction materials used were the major factors which caused the buildings to retain heat, Mr Jensen said.

While standards vary between countries, Mr Jensen explained that, for example, in France if the internal temperature of an apartment rises above 28C for more than 3 per cent of the year it would be in breach of the code.

But Mr Jensen said there were no standards to protect against heat stress in the Building Code of Australia.

"The research highlights to the public that heat stress inside apartments is a real issue and that we need to do more to control this — not only in new buildings, but also for existing buildings.

"This is an issue of health and safety in people's homes, so it is a fairly important issue."


Mr Jensen said in light of predictions of the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, as well as recent questions over the reliability of electricity grids, apartment cooling designs could and should not be solely dependent on air-conditioning units.

Why don't we have a summer comfort code?

He explained that the French Government implemented a summer comfort code following 14,000 deaths attributed to a heatwave there in 2003.

"That event triggered it for them, which we potentially haven't had."

Mr Jensen said a summer comfort code in Australia should be introduced sooner rather than later.


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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