The risk of overheating in healthcare buildings

There is anecdotal evidence of overheating being an issue in some NHS facilities and in care homes, however the extent of this problem is not currently well understood.

ClimateXChange commissioned a scoping study to establish how extensive existing internal temperature data are which could be used to inform possible future research on the potential impacts of overheating in buildings housing vulnerable people in Scotland.

The study, which considered five sample hospitals with in-patient facilities, drew on questionnaire responses from facility teams, on-site surveys, and investigation and analysis of suitable data at this sites.

The research shows that given the complex, and in many cases, site specific nature of thermal comfort and overheating issues in hospital buildings, it may not be appropriate to link / group common overheating ‘issues’ to common hospital archetypes.

It was also found that whilst all sites generally aim to operate with a target operational temperature in the region of 21 to 22°C, there is anecdotal evidence of overheating issues being present in four out of the five sites examined within the study, at least at certain times of year, under specific external conditions or in specific areas of the facility. The study found that all sites generally used windows that could be opened, local fans and curtains/blinds to mitigate overheating, with varying levels of success. 

Whilst anecdotal evidence of overheating was identified, the study found a significant lack of data that would enable a robust assessment of overheating in in-patient areas. As no robust or easily interrogate-able data is logged or otherwise available, the study recommends that consideration be given to undertaking a programme of cost effective monitoring (of selected in-patient facilities) to capture data that will enable a robust assessment of the nature and severity of overheating at selected sites.