People can experience different intensities of climate impacts as a result of the type of housing that they live in


Credit: © iStock/Daniel Berehulak

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The impacts of climate change and extreme weather events can affect anyone, but those living in certain types of buildings have the potential for more serious harm. Not all residents of affected buildings are equally vulnerable; some individuals are affected by additional causes of vulnerability due to social or other environmental factors. People experiencing multiple causes of vulnerability are the most extremely socially vulnerable. 



How buildings can increase exposure


There are a number of ways that buildings can be impacted by climate trends and weather events. Buildings also influence how climate and extreme weather events can affect their occupants (Table 1). Effects vary with different building types, different building constructions and in response to how buildings are used. Building users often exert a strong influence on how buildings respond to different environmental events and conditions.   


The tendency of some buildings to increase the exposure of people to climate impacts can be compounded by other personal, environmental and social factors which make their residents particularly vulnerable. These include personal factors associated with sensitivity (e.g. due to age or poor health), factors associated with other environmental considerations (e.g. the availability of green space and shading) and social factors which affect how well people are able to adapt, including being on a low income, being socially isolated or being a tenant. See Who is Vulnerable? for more information about who is socially vulnerable and why.   


The following sections particularly focus on how the characteristics of buildings and their use can increase people’s exposure to heat-waves and flooding and what measures can be put in place to respond. See Further Resources, Section 5 (above) for more information on the implications of events like heat-waves and flooding for particular vulnerable groups, such as older people, people in ill-health and people on low incomes and suggestions about the measures which can be taken in response.


Climate/ weather events

Impact on the built environment and secondary impacts

Possible Responses



Internal and external building damage. Chance of slope instability. Increased insurance premiums in flood risk areas.

Property level interventions - door guards; air bricks; temporary flood barriers, vigilant maintenance; air tightness; flood resistant materials such as steel skirting boards and solid flooring; damage minimisation through, removable/replaceable doors on fitted cupboards; relocation of electrical plugs and appliances.

Neighbourhood level interventions - Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS);  community level flood defences; greenspace interventions and appropriate management regimes. 

Storms (including high winds)

Greater chance of structural damage to buildings. Risk of rain penetration in exposed areas.

Property level interventions - Reinforcement of the building structure, including roofs and increasing the capacity of guttering and drainage down-pipes.

Cold events


Cold related stresses on buildings (e.g. freezing pipes, frost heave on stonework). Climate projections point to fewer events in the future and less energy needed for winter-time heating.

Property level interventions - Vigilant maintenance; insulation.

 Installation of measures to further reduce energy demand and use (including use of energy efficiency measures).

Heat waves (including temperature increases)

Chance of soil shrinkage and subsidence, particularly in clay soil areas. Faster deterioration in concrete. Internal overheating of some buildings, particularly traditionally constructed high rise flats.

Property level interventions - External solar shading (e.g. shutters); solar control window films;  mechanical ventilation (air conditioning; fans); passive cooling measures (night time ventilation; wind ventilation; opening windows); enhance thermal mass in light weight constructions. Educate residents, including the residents and staff of care and residential homes and the users and managers of other buildings, about appropriate ventilation strategies and ensure there is awareness of heatwave advice, e.g. on appropriate behavioural changes in terms of food, drink and clothing. See Further Resources section on poor healtholder people and the Heatwave Plan For England.

Neighbourhood level interventions - Greenspace interventions for shade and cooling, appropriate greenspace management regimes (including drought management), protection of local open spaces.


(including reduced summer rainfall)

Chance of soil shrinkage and subsidence, particularly in clay soil areas. Less water for building maintenance and residential use.

Property level interventions - Rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling; measures to reduce household water demand and use (e.g. through installation of water efficiency measures)

Milder winters

Chance of

spreading infections

Property level interventions -Monitoring & maintenance; Air quality management systems; Ventilation

Wetter winters

Increased chance of damp in buildings.

Property level interventions - Vigilant maintenance; rain screen cladding; ventilation

Warmer summers

Increased possibility of pests in buildings may cause damage, especially to historic structures.

Property level interventions - Night ventilation for some pest problems

Pest monitoring and control at property and community level.

Table 1:  Impacts of climate trends or weather events on the built environment and potential solutions1


Heatwaves and buildings


Cities are prone to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, meaning that temperatures in cities are generally higher than in the rural areas which surround them2,3.  The extent of these differences varies with weather conditions, season and time of day, often being most marked during the night-time and sometimes not been evident at all. During heatwave events, temperatures in city centres can be particularly high since the weather conditions associated with such events –e.g.  low wind speeds and cloud-free conditions – also favour the development of the UHI effect. During the August 2003 heat-wave, a night-time UHI intensity of up to 9C was recorded in London4.  During 2010, air temperature measurements showed that Manchester’s daytime UHI was most commonly around 1C in both summer and winter, increasing to 1.5C during summer nights5. Extreme UHI intensities of up to 8C were recorded during some summer nights with even greater values during winter nights6.


The UHI benefits urban residents in winter but can make people more likely to experience heat-related stress and discomfort in summer. Climate projections for the 2050s suggest that average summer night-time temperatures will be around 2-3C higher than today (based on the central estimate of the medium emissions scenario relative to 1961-90)7. This temperature increase will be felt most acutely in urban areas.


Heat-wave thresholds (Table 2) used to issue warnings and guidance to organisations and the wider public differ across the UK in recognition of the different temperatures which people are used to as a result of where they live in the country. However, they do not account for differences between urban and rural areas, except in London, by virtue of London having its own threshold value.


The internal temperature of a building is a product of three factors: the outside conditions; how a building is designed and constructed; and how a building is used (Figure 1), see Zero Carbon Hub. This means that it is not just the weather which affects temperatures inside someone’s home but also its basic characteristics, its situation and the behaviour of the residents living there.  A person’s thermal comfort at any point in time is related to temperature, wind flow, humidity, clothing and activity levels. It can be affected by how much a person has the ability to modify their environment and the rate of change of conditions. See references 11, 12 and 13.

Figure 1: Illustration of the three main causes of overheating in buildings, see Zero Carbon Hub.




Day max (°C)

Night min (°C)

North East England



North West England    



Yorkshire and the Humber



West Midlands



East Midlands



East of England



South East England






South West England






Table 2: Heat-wave thresholds used as part of the Heat-Health Watch system which runs from 1st June to 15th September each year. Temperatures must be forecast to exceed thresholds on at least 2 consecutive days to trigger warnings10


Buildings that are poorly designed, constructed or maintained may aggravate the effects of heat-waves on socially vulnerable12,13 residents.   Some building types are more susceptible to overheating than others and may lack the means through which residents can easily cool down living spaces. Some of the same building stock may be inefficient in other ways, such as for retaining heat during the winter-time.


Flats in 1960s tower blocks are some of the most susceptible to overheating of all dwelling types due to their tendency to have poor insulation and rely on natural ventilation. A particular problem is the tendency to have windows which only open to one side of a building since this restricts the amount of air movement which can be achieved with natural ventilation14, see CREW retrofit tool.  Problems are particularly acute when the orientation of the building means that sunlight can enter through windows for much of the day. Flats in high rise buildings can show a six-fold difference in temperature between the top and ground floors15. Another important reason for overheating is the lack of insulation that these flats tend to have. This allows heat to quickly enter buildings. Building standards have changed since the 1960s and issues associated with overheating are now included in relevant industry standards, such as Building for Life. However, some commentators point out that legislation still does not require developers to ensure that new flats incorporate through ventilation as part of their design, see news article.  


Poor insulation means that there is less of a buffer between internal and external temperatures. Just as heat is let out quickly in colder periods so heat gain is larger during periods of high temperatures16.


The English Housing Survey Housing stock report17 estimates that in 2008 there were around 63,000 flats consisting entirely of attic rooms. Such flats need to have good insulation, coupled with appropriate shading and ventilation, to avoid overheating during extreme temperatures. Flats in the upper stories of blocks are also likely to be associated with higher temperatures; blocks of six or more storeys made up around 8% of the total stock of flats in England in 2008.


Problems of overheating in buildings are a particular concern where there are multiple reasons for vulnerability in their occupants. For example:

  • People on low incomes living in accommodation requiring adaptation may not be able to afford the necessary adaptations to cool their homes in summer.
  • People in accommodation maintained or managed by others may have limited capacity to make changes.
  • Sensitive people may be living in accommodation which increases their exposure to high temperatures.   Older people who live in multi-occupancy flats may be particularly vulnerable because of a tendency for the flats to overheat and because it may be more difficult for occupants to easily gain access to outdoor spaces which may be cooler18. In addition, restrictions on window openings in care homes or in high-rise flats can make it difficult for occupants to self-moderate temperatures during hot weather. See the Further Resources section for more information on the implications of hot weather for sensitive groups.


Personal, environmental and social factors also affect how residents live within their homes and how far they are able or willing to act on advice during heat-waves. Age, health and mobility may affect the ability of people to open windows in their homes without the help of carers, neighbours or other trusted members of the local community. Evidence from the Chicago heatwave of 1995 showed that fear of crime was a factor restricting the extent to which people were willing to sleep with open windows at night19.  Environmental factors such as noise, air pollution and pests may also affect people’s willingness to leave windows open for extended periods and particularly at night when the benefits are most important.


Institutional regimes can restrict a person’s capacity to respond to hot weather. Given that different people have different tolerances to heat (and cold), group living and working presents a particular problem for maintaining comfortable temperatures for all. This can be an issue in care homes20 and other institutional spaces21. Studies of schools, for example, have shown that comfort levels among children vary greatly and this has an impact on their alertness in the classroom26



Flooding and buildings


For those living in urban areas, increased surface sealing by buildings, roads, car parks and walkways reduces the ability of natural drainage systems to remove runoff created during intense rainfall events or as a result of flooding22.


There are many ways that water can enter buildings and damage their structure, services and contents (Figure 3), see the Six Step Resilience tool. Although there are technologies available to prevent or reduce the problem, average costs of £4,700 per property23 can be prohibitive, and unaffordable to those on low incomes24.


Some buildings are particularly susceptible to water incursion, for example basement dwellings. The English Housing Survey Housing stock report25 estimated that in 2008 around  2% of all homes in England (some 340,000 dwellings) had some of their rooms in basements. There were also around 84,000 flats which had basements and three-quarters of these had all of their living accommodation below ground level.  


The difficulties in using available building level adaptations can be compounded by other sources of vulnerability, for example factors associated with:

  • Awareness of problems and their solutions, including the ability to access and use available information
  • Lack of control over buildings and their upkeep
  • Age, mobility problems or ill-health which can affect an individual’s ability to obtain, fit and use measures.


Personal, environmental and social factors also affect how far residents can install and use property level adaptations to flooding. Age, health and mobility may strongly affect the ability of people to use flood gates or other flood protection measures without the help of carers, neighbours or trusted members of the local community. There is also evidence that people in some areas may be unwilling to take preventative measures while out of the home due to concerns that homes may look unoccupied and be targeted by burglars. Making adaptations to homes may also be resisted if home-owners feel that it would reduce the value of their homes or make it difficult to sell27.  

Figure 3: Routes for water entry into buildings and potential solutions28


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  1. Adapted from Connelly, A. 2011. Adapting Office Buildings for Climate Change.  Carter. J. G. and Lawson, N. 2011. Looking back and projecting forwards: Greater Manchester’s weather and climate. EcoCities, University of Manchester, RIBA . 2007. Climate Change Toolkits. Online Portal. Shaw, R. Colley, M. and Connell, R. 2007. Climate change: adaptation by design: a guide for sustainable communities. Town and Country Planning Association.
  2. R. L. Wilby. 2003. Past and projected trends in London’s urban heat island. Weather, 58(7), 2003.
  3. Greater London Authority (2006) London’s Urban Heat Island: A Summary for Decision Makers
  4. Capon, R. and Oakley, G. (2012) Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Built Environment Sector
  5. Cheung, Kei Wang (2011) An urban heat island study for building and urban design. PhD thesis, University of Manchester.
  6. Cheung, Kei Wang (2011) An urban heat island study for building and urban design. PhD thesis, University of Manchester.
  7. Capon, R. and Oakley, G. (2012) Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Built Environment Sector  DCLG (2012) Investigation into Overheating in Homes: Literature Review
  8. Thermal comfort and Health and Safety Executive. What is Thermal Comfort?
  9. Nicol, J. F. and  Humphreys, M. A. (2002) Adaptive thermal comfort and sustainable thermal standards for buildings, Energy and Buildings, 34: 6: 563-572,
  10. Met Office Heat Health Watch
  11. Benzie et al. 2011. Vulnerability to heat-waves and drought: adaptation to climate change. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.
  12. Aecom (2012) Investigation into overheating in homes: a literature review. Department for Communities and Local Government, London.
  13. DCLG (2012) Investigation into overheating in homes. Literature review.  
  14. DCLG (2012) Investigation into overheating in homes. Literature review.
  15. DCLG (2010) English Housing Survey Housing stock report 2008 
  16. Conditioning Demand: Older People, Diversity and Thermal Experience, Summary of the project and its outcomes.
  17. Klinenberg, E. (2002) Heatwave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
  18. Wolf, J., Adger, W.N., Lorenzoni, I., Abrahamson, V. & Raine, R. (2010) “Social capital, individual responses to heat waves and climate change adaptation: An empirical study of two UK cities”, Global Environmental Change, 20(1), pp. 44–52
  19. DCLG (2012) Investigation into overheating in homes. Literature review.
  20. Houston, D., Werritty, A., Bassett, D., Geddes, A., Hoolachan, A. & McMillan, M. (2011) “Pluvial (rain-related) flooding in urban areas : the invisible hazard”, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York
  21. JBA/Environment Agency (2012) Evaluation of the Defra Property-level Flood Protection Scheme: 25918
  22. Bichard, E. and Kazmierczak, A. 2012. Are homeowners willing to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change? Climatic Change 112: 633-654
  23. DCLG (2010) English Housing Survey Housing stock report 2008 
  24. Douglas, I., Garvin, S., Lawson, N., Richards, J., Tippett, J. and White, I. (2010) ‘Urban pluvial flooding: A qualitative case study of cause, effect and nonstructural mitigation’. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 3(2), pp. 112–25
  25. White, I., O’Hare, P., Lawson, N., Garvin, S., and Connelly, A. 2013. Six steps to flood resilience – guidance for local authorities and professionals. Manchester. Adapted from CIRIA 2005 
  26. Teli, D., Bourikas, L., James, P.A.B, Bahaj, A. S. (2017) Thermal Performance Evaluation of School Buildings using a Children-Based Adaptive Comfort Model. Procedia Environmental Sciences 38 ( 2017 ) 844 – 851
  27. Douglas, I., Garvin, S., Lawson, N., Richards, J., Tippett, J. and White, I. (2010) ‘Urban pluvial flooding: A qualitative case study of cause, effect and nonstructural mitigation’. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 3(2), pp. 112–25
  28. White, I., O’Hare, P., Lawson, N., Garvin, S., and Connelly, A. 2013. Six steps to flood resilience – guidance for local authorities and professionals. Manchester. Adapted from CIRIA 2005


Some people may not be aware of what can be done to avoid being affected by extreme events like flooding and heatwaves and how their own behaviour influences how they are affected.


Flood guard fitted over a front door ('property level protection'). Credit: UK Flood Barriers

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Raising awareness and understanding


Improving public knowledge about solutions can encourage individuals to protect their homes. Such information is also important to provide alongside messages about the potential for climate impacts such as floods and heatwaves to avoid people feeling powerless to act.


Not all people and communities are equally able to apply and use property protection measures. In order to avoid making inequalities worse, it may be necessary to identify people who are likely to have difficulties acting on an individual basis so that their needs can be met in other ways. This also needs to consider why people are unwilling to adapt their behaviour and explore ways that concerns can be addressed.



Duties and responsibilities


Local authorities and their partners in health and social care have statutory duties and a range of other responsibilities to engage communities on issues associated with preparing for climate impacts and extreme events. Duties also cover the need to avoid disadvantaging vulnerable groups, the need to ensure effective service delivery and the need to meet the requirements of being a social landlord.  More information about some of the relevant legislation can be found here, including:

  • The Health and Social Care Act (2012)
  • The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF)
  • The Localism Act (2011)
  • The Equality Act 2010


Consider the general actions which you can take


Green wall outside Birmingham New Street station, an example of incorporating green infrastructure into an urban environment © Climate UK


Consider the vulnerabilities of neighbourhoods and building types in your area using the ClimateJust map tool as a starting point for understanding community needs. These can be supplemented with locally held information about the sorts of residential dwellings in your local area.


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Identify the magnitude and likelihood of hazards associated with the changing climate, including flooding and heatwaves.

  • Consider how patterns of vulnerable groups and building characteristics compare with patterns of potential exposure to flooding and heat-waves, use the map tool.
  • Draw on existing risk assessments, adaptation tools such as the UKCP09 projections (and the forthcoming UKCP18 project which will update the UKCP09 projections over UK land areas and sea-level rise, giving greater regional detail) and other local information (for example following the UKCIP Local Climate Impacts Profile (LCLIP) process).  See the Further Resources section above for an example, like the LCLIP for Greater Manchester
  • Examine the impacts of extreme weather events including their location, timing, costs and the effectiveness of responses to record local experiences and support continuous learning.


Review the case studies in the Further Resources section to see what others have done.

  • For example in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, two tower blocks which, in total, contained 200 flats were not only refurbished to meet Decent Homes standards but, whilst other retrofitting work was taking place, were adapted to make them more resilient to future climate change. The website contains the property surveys with the residents as well as the financial analysis that provided the justification for action.


Keep informed about changes to building regulations. Current building regulations do not require flood resilience measures to be installed in new buildings. Some experts recommend that building regulations be amended to ensure that all new builds are “flood resilient compliant”. The Local Government Association (LGA) has also called for building regulations to require anti-flood measures such as raised electrical sockets and fuse boxes and controls, wiring above floor level, ventilation brick covers, sealed floors and raised damp proof courses.

Professional planning and engineering institutions are working to develop a voluntary code on flood resilience measures that should be used in any new developments. In September 2017, Defra published a Property Flood Resilience Action Plan. This recommended that the Government further explore whether building regulations could be better used to encourage flood resistant and resilient building construction.

Consider the following actions below to assist the uptake and use of property-level adaptations.



Heatwave resilience through building adaptations


Consider the range of technical solutions that can help to adapt buildings so that the tendency for them to exacerbate the effects of heat-waves on residents is reduced.

  •  Supporting technical information on the thermal characteristics of buildings, temperature thresholds and temperature ranges are available from specialist reports, e.g.  Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Guide A.
  • See the Further Resources Section for information about how overheating can impact on vulnerable groups at a neighbourhood level and what adaptations might be considered1.


Identify low cost measures that may assist in preventing properties from overheating. These might be particularly helpful for individuals who may be at home for most of the day. Traditional solutions include brise soleil, awnings and shutters to reduce solar gain (heat) and solar glare (light)2. Other measures include the use of ‘reflective’ surfaces which absorb less heat, such as painting roofs and walls white, or investing in curtains with reflective white linings 3. All of these are particularly good for reducing daytime heat gain.  These measures could also be applied in institutional settings such as care homes as well as in private or social housing.

  • See the Further Resources section for a link to the BIOPICC toolkit and case studies developed to understand how resilience to extreme weather events can be improved to benefit older people.


Promote the need for good insulation in the home to protect against overheating during a heat-wave or in a warmer climate 4 (though in long periods of high temperature residents need to ensure that homes are adequately ventilated during the cooler hours to prevent heat building up). External shading of windows can also have an important role. External wall insulation has other benefits too: not only does it prevent heat from entering the internal spaces, it can also improve the energy performance of a building. This prevents loss of heat during winter, which potentially reduces the amount of fuel needed to heat a property and may help to reduce vulnerability to fuel poverty 5. Whether internal or external, the type of insulation chosen will depend on many factors. External wall insulation may be materially more expensive; however, internal insulation may be disruptive to tenants living in multi-occupancy flats, where a quicker and less disruptive solution would be to upgrade the building with external insulation.


See the Further Resources section for links to:


Consider how passive cooling strategies can provide important benefits and may need to be used in conjunction with well-insulated homes to prevent heat build up. This includes the use of shading, cross-ventilation and night-time ventilation. Octavia Housing, a social landlord, retrofitted an 1860s terraced house to meet Passivhaus standards because it was in a conservation area which limited solutions that could be applied without significantly changing the building.


Consider promoting green space interventions as another means by which temperatures can be made cooler in wider neighbourhoods which in turn reduces the outside temperature around a building. Adding vegetation into the urban environment is one of a range of possible UHI control measures that can be considered including introducing shading and water features, modifying building materials and considering how other factors such as street orientation can affect internal temperatures 6. Local communities can often become involved with actions related to changes to vegetation and types of urban materials 7. Community involvement may also be important for ensuring that green areas continue to provide cooling functions, e.g. through helping to prevent planted areas from drying out.

See the Further Resources section for more information about green infrastructure measures 8.



Flood resilience through building adaptations9


Consider the respective role of the two types of solution that can increase the resilience of individual properties to flooding. “Flood resilient” measures accept that flood waters will enter a property and, thus, seek to minimise the damage. “Flood resistant” solutions aim to keep flood water away from properties10. Sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) are another adaptation option; these are covered elsewhere in the portal, see Further Resources section for more information.


Identify where “Flood resilient” measures may be particularly appropriate. These include measures like placing electrical sockets higher up the wall (c. 1.5 metres). Carpets can also be removed where tiles and floorboards can be exposed since these are quicker and easier to clean. Rugs may also be an option since these can be removed or replaced more easily. It is also possibly to buy water-resistant skirting boards and horizontal plasterboard or lime-based plaster can be used in preference to gypsum.


Keep informed about new developments in flood protection. Many innovative technologies to increase flood resilience are coming to market. However, for various reasons (including the type of house and the type of occupant), it is recommended that bespoke measures are designed that follow on from surveying a property and, once installed, are supported by flood groups and flood plans. For example, for people with reduced mobility, temporary flood door guards and barriers may be too cumbersome for them to deploy quickly enough (particularly if it is an area where flash flooding is common).

  • The Six Steps to Flood Resilience, a comprehensive toolkit for local authorities and flood risk professionals, gives an insight into such design considerations and a step-by-step process to follow in design, procurement and operation of such technologies. See the Further Resources section for links to this information.

 Encourage residents to carry out their own measures to avoid the loss and damage of possessions. For example through moving valuables and irreplaceable items of sentimental value to a higher location (i.e. on the first floor of a property or on higher level shelving). Some residents may need assistance, for example those who are older, less mobile or in poor health. Other information on how individuals and communities can prepare are available through the Further Resources, including developing community resilience and flood plans.


Promote the National Flood Forum as an important source of information and support. Among other things, the NFF delivers the Blue Pages – a directory of flood protection goods and services - aimed at householders and property owners. The NFF notes that it does not specifically endorse the products listed, rather it provides the material to raise awareness of the available options which can then be looked at alongside other resources such as the Environment Agency’s own guidance. In its introduction to the listings, the NFF also cautions that measures designed to prevent water entering a property may not be appropriate everywhere. In situations where flooding might reach a depth of a metre or more, using measures to keep water out could lead to an unacceptably high strain on the building itself. Under these situations it may be better to allow water through and avoid potential structural damage.

  • In collaboration with a number of partners, the National Flood Forum website now also hosts The Property Protection Advisor which can help communities and individuals to investigate solutions that may help to increase their resilience to floods. See the Further Resources section for links to this and other helpful information.


Consider investing in community wide measures (such as temporary flood barriers) or alternatively people could be supported in trying to find funding from elsewhere. Funding for any capital schemes requires a number of sources/ agencies to contribute.

  • A toolkit developed for Defra provides detailed information on sources of funding, which includes guidance on potential partner organisations and funding sources. See the Further Resources section for links to this information. 
  • Defra’s Pathfinder projects are also providing further learning about good practice in community level actions. Projects associated with flooding are currently ongoing. They aim to protect a range of properties from flooding and stress tangible and measurable outcomes, such as reductions in household insurance premiums. A set of projects on coastal resilience are already completed and all were shown to have improved community resilience to some extent.
  • See the Further Resources section for more information about the Pathfinder Projects

Remember that none of the technical solutions identified here can fully protect against the effects of flooding. They should be supported by community engagement and action. Community flood wardens can help to identify the most vulnerable people in a neighbourhood and organise how to provide any extra assistance that they may need to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a flood event. The availability and affordability of insurance is also a very important issue. See Further Resources, Section 5 (above).


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  1. Aleksandra Kazmierczak. 2012. Heat and People: a Risk Response Case Study. EcoCities Project, The University of Manchester. 
  2. Angela Connelly. 2011. Adapting Buildings to Climate Change: a Literature Review, EcoCities Project, The University of Manchester.
  3. Public Health England. 2013. The heat-wave plan for England 2013.
  4. University of West England. 2006. The Construction Website: Insulation.  
  5. Public Health England. 2013. The heat-wave plan for England 2013.
  6. Smith, C and Levermore, G. (2008) Designing urban spaces and buildings to improve sustainability and quality of life in a warmer world Energy Policy 36 4558–4562
  7. USEPA (no date) Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies Urban Heat Island Basics Reference
  8. Illustrations 21-photo-floodbarrier-1-AC, 1-photo-NFF-Buckingham-AC, 2-photo-NFF-Buckingham-AC
  9. Bowker, P. 2007. Flood resistance and resilience solutions: an R & D scoping study.
  10. White, I., O’Hare, P., Lawson, N., Garvin, S., Connelly, A. 2013. Six Steps to Flood Resilience: Guidance for Local Authorities and Professionals.


1. Review the Recommended general actions


2. Consider the range, scale and type of interventions which can be used and their appropriateness in different local situations and contexts. A number of different types of measures have been identified in the previous section. Although many are suitable for retrofitting existing buildings, new buildings or major redevelopments have most potential for bringing together a range of adaptation measures. New builds bring the opportunity to: design-in adaptation measures; consider costs against benefits over the expected lifetime of a development; use appropriately experienced contractors; and use contractual arrangements which emphasise the requirements for buildings to meet performance targets.

The Further Resources section provides:

  • A link to a review of measures and interventions associated with overheating in buildings. They include actions associated with the urban realm, buildings, equipment, changing behaviour, building performance and occupant health1.
  • A link to several compendia of flood adaptations, e.g. the National Flood Forum’s Blue Pages.
  • More information on wider measures associated with vulnerable groups, including those in poor health.
  • More information on the Government’s Soft Landing Scheme to assist with setting up performance related targets.    


3. Consider the barriers to implementing building adaptations and how they might be overcome.

Think about the building stock which houses vulnerable communities in your area and the adaptation measures which might be appropriate for them.


Consider how people may require support to use property protection measures or act on advice. For example, the refurbishment of a 1930s house in York, undertaken for JRF, to make it more energy efficient showed the difference between predicted performance and actual performance (known as the performance gap)2.  Similar issues can be found in relation to building adaptations put in place to cool buildings or to help protect it from flooding. The extent of the performance gap depends on the type of building being adapted, the type of adaptation being used, the characteristics of the building users and the way in which building users interact with the building and its adaptation measures. Many options are technical solutions that require a certain amount of human input to make them work effectively, such as flood gates during an emergency situation. Residents may need to know about passively ventilating their homes by opening windows and understanding cross-ventilation to allow a through-flow of air. Issues such as not having English as a first language, reluctance to open windows in urban areas, or reduced mobility may inhibit the user’s ability to put these measures into action3,4.


Where possible, consider integrating adaptation and mitigation to keep costs to a minimum, to minimise disruption to residents, and to optimise performance.  Retrofits should ideally consider both future heat gains and current cold weather issues.  

  • Further information on how this has been tackled is given in the Further Resources section.


Consider using community measures where it is unlikely that property owners or residents are able to adopt property level measures independently, for example due to being on low incomes or not being responsible for the maintenance of the home that they live in. 


4. Only use technological solutions as part of a wider package of activities and actions which consider the needs of vulnerable residents and recognise that no flood resilience measure completely removes the potential for buildings to be affected. Be sure to also use a range of ‘soft’ measures which target those who have particular difficulties. For example, people with reduced mobility may require help to move their valuables when a flood warning is issued. It is important to note that the most ‘valuable’ items people have are often not those which have high monetary costs – there is evidence that people affected by past events have regretted prioritising valuable yet replaceable items over those with more sentimental value such as photographs and keepsakes5. Measures which tackle institutional and building management regimes can be important for responding to heat wave events and also for promoting better every-day thermal comfort for people living in multi-occupant buildings, such as residential homes. Actions may involve: reviewing the existing thermal characteristics of buildings and occupant preferences; identifying and designating cool and warm locations; and identifying ways through which occupants can modify their own comfort levels.


5. Review the specific tools in the Further Resources section but remember that many do not explicitly consider the needs of vulnerable people.  It is therefore important to use information alongside the other materials and resources identified in this website to address inequalities.


6.  Review the case studies in the Further Resources section showing how others have applied technical and non-technical responses. This section also contains a list of tools and other resources which you may find helpful, including sources of advice for the public and factsheets associated with building adaptation case studies.





  1. DCLG (2012) Investigation into Overheating in Homes: Literature Review 
  2. Richard Partington Architects. 2012. Temple Avenue Project: Energy Efficient Refurbished Homes for the 21st Century. JRF & JRHT.
  3. Benzie, M, Harvey, A, Burningham, K, Hodgson, N and Siddiqi, A (2011) Vulnerability to heat-waves and drought: adaptation to climate change, JRF.
  4. Sarah Lindley et al. 2011. Climate Change, Justice and Vulnerability. JRF, York.
  5. Walker, G., Burningham, K., Fielding, J., Smith, G., Thrush, D. & Fay, H. (2006) Using science to create a better place: Addressing Environmental Inequalities: Flood Risk, Science Report: SC020061/SR1, Environment Agency, Bristol.



On this page:



Tools and resources



Type of Resource

Climate Just Link

Adapting UK dwellings to reduce overheating during heatwaves: Retrofit Advice Tool (CREW)

Aimed at designers, decision makers and householders to support the assessment of options for retrofitting homes based on property type and characteristics.

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD) and De Montfort University.


Adapting Buildings

Online Tool

Crew Retrofit Advice Tool

Heatwave plan for England

Website with the latest documents and plans for heat wave events in England

Health and Social Care Sector

Report and Actions

Heatwave Plan for England

Heatwave Plan for Scotland

Website with the materials to support planning for, and responding to, heat wave events in Scotland

Safer Scotland

Health and Social Care Sector


Report and Actions

Heatwave Plan fror Scotland

Heatwave Plan for Wales

Website with the latest documents and plans for heat wave events in Wales

Welsh Government

Health and Social Care Sector


Report and Actions

Heatwave Plan for Wales

Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC) Toolkit

Aimed at anyone with a role in supporting health and social care for older people. Resources cover understanding needs and protecting infrastructure.

Durham University

Health and Social Care

Online Tool


Guidance on flood protection products Provides information on likely costs and links to other information sources such as the Flood Protection Association, associated professional bodies and the Kitemark accreditation scheme

Environment Agency



Prepare For A Flood

National Flood Forum

Information about property level adaptations and other ways to build flood resilience, including the Blue Pages directory of available services and products. These should be read in conjunction with the Environment Agency’s own guidance.

National Flood Forum


National Flood Forum

Property Care Association information about the different types of flooding associated with residential and commercial buildings and a range of possible technical response measures which can be used.

Property Care Association (Flood Protection Group)


Flood Protection Group

Overheating in Homes

Supports the comparison of different adaptation options

Zero Carbon Hub (2013)

High temperatures


Zero Carbon Hub

Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA) has published a number of climate change toolkits, including on Designing for Flood Risk

RIBA (various)

Report-based toolkit

Architecture: Sustainability and Climate Change 

Legal Rights and Duties relating to flooding for property owners

Covers the legal framework, frequently asked questions and a set of further resources

UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)

Online summary of points of environmental law

Environment Law 

Six Steps to Flood Resilience

Designed to address the lack of easy-to-use guidance to support the use of novel flood resilience measures in planning, this resource provides a process to follow and resources for further information

Building Research Establishment, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Manchester


Guidance document

Six Steps To Flood Resilience 

Governments Soft Landing for built asset procurement. Guidance for setting up performance related payment schedules which can be used to ensure the effectiveness of adaptation measures.

Building Information Modelling Task Group

Guidance, resources and case studies.

BIM task Group 








Type of Resource


Adaptation by Design

Provides a concise and easy-to-understand introduction to solutions at building, neighbourhood and conurbation scale.

Town and Country Planning Association (2011)


Town and Country Planning Association Report

Adapting Buildings: a literature review A more general introduction into the range of social and technical considerations when adapting buildings for climate change can be found here

Ecocities (2011)


Adapting Buildings Review 

Beating the Heat



UKCIP Report 

Building Comfort for Older Age: Designing and managing thermal comfort in low carbon housing for older people. A report on improving the thermal comfort of older people (including overheating and coldness) in a range of settings gives recommendations and potential solutions depending on the type of living arrangement, for example, care homes, extra-care homes and private dwellings

Various (2013)


Building Comfort for Older Age 

Investigation into Overheating in Homes Literature Review



Overheating Homes 

Overheating in Homes

Supports the comparison of different adaptation options

Zero Carbon Hub (2013)

High temperatures


Zero Carbon Hub

Present and future flood vulnerability, risk and disadvantage: A UK scale assessment. 

Recent assessment of flood risk, including a consideration of the exposure of new developments and adaptations.  


Sayers & Partners LLP report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Report Present and future flood vulnerability, risk and disadvantage: A UK scale assessment



Case studies




Type of Resource


Adaptation in Action Case Studies

Brief summaries of various adaptation measures, including building resilience and green infrastructure measures for homes and other building types.  

Environment Agency

Set of online case studies

Environment Agency

Design for Future Climate (D4FC) competition: project outputs for Phases 1 and 2: Fact sheet and a map of the location of adapted buildings.

Innovate UK

Set of case study fact sheets

Innovate UK

Technology Strategy Board Case Studies

Summaries of technological solutions and building adaptations to flood, heat and other climate-related hazards. Also see their Knowledge Summaries

Innovate UK Knowledge Exchange Network

Online case studies (registration required for full access)

Innovate UK  Network

Starting up a flood action group, Flood Action4 Buckingham

An example of one of the 160+ flood action groups supported which bring communities together, support people through the preparation process and provide a point of contact for the variety of agencies that help to manage flooding

Climate Just team with Roger Parkinson

Internal case study

Flood action groups


Community flood warden scheme – Doncaster

How communities and service providers in Doncaster were able to learn from flooding events in 2007 in order to develop a community flood warden scheme in affected areas.

Climate Just team with Rosalind McDonagh, Doncaster Borough Council

Internal case study

Community Flood Warden Schemes


Case study of adapting social housing. Includes information about the process followed for identifying priorities and formulating plans for adapting a 4000 strong housing stock

Octavia Housing

Online case study (external)

Octavia Housing 

Your social housing in a changing climate Worked example of a retrofit of a residential tower block used for social housing. The retrofit covered issues of over-heating, water scarcity and flooding

Arup study on behalf of the Three Regions Climate Group and published by London Climate Change Partnership

Case study aimed at social housing providers

London Climate Change Partnership