Europe’s heatwaves: How to keep buildings cool sustainably?


Europe’s temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the global average with more and more extreme heatwaves being recorded. The demand for sustainable cooling in buildings is increasing and, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, there is a need for buildings that are energy efficient, use passive cooling solutions and can protect people from heatwaves and contribute to human health and well-being.

The EEA briefing ‘Cooling buildings sustainably in Europe’ analyses how to best alleviate heat stress in buildings and its potential impacts on vulnerable groups, health and inequalities and at same time decrease the energy use.

Heatwaves, urbanisation and ageing populations can prompt a heavy use of active cooling in buildings, which is inefficient, socially inequitable and increases energy use. Prioritising passive cooling solutions, improving energy efficiency of buildings, communicating on individual good practices and promoting urban cooling solutions, such as green and blue public spaces, are more sustainable solutions to address heat stress, the EEA briefing states.

Moreover, targeting vulnerable groups would minimise negative health impacts from heat stress and reduce inequalities and energy poverty. When active cooling is necessary, cooling systems should be as efficient as possible, low carbon and equitably accessible by vulnerable and other groups. According to the EEA briefing, current EU policies development and the renovation wave offer key opportunities to ensure low-carbon cooling solutions that are socially just and strengthen societal resilience.

Recent EEA report shows that more frequent heatwaves and increasing vulnerability of the population will lead to a substantial increase in adverse health impacts in Europe unless adaptation measures are taken. An earlier EEA analysis showed that heatwaves caused about 77 000-129 000 deaths in Europe during the past 40 years, representing about 90% of all climate-related fatalities.

The new EEA briefing is based on a study conducted by Ramboll for the EEA, as well as past EEA work and contributions from the EIONET network.

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