Converted offices are turning into ‘unfit’ homes at risk of overheating, insurer warns
- Poorly designed converted office space sparks concerns about ‘unfit’ homes
- Conversions are at risk of overheating in the heat, says insurer Zurich
- The greatest danger is in smaller studio apartments with a window on one side
Poorly designed converted office space raises concerns that homes are being created that are unfit for future climates.
Insurer Zurich UK claimed some of these conversions lacked adequate ventilation and shading, creating homes at risk of overheating during heatwaves.
He warned that the danger was greatest in small self-contained studio flats with only one-way windows, particularly in converted offices in the city centre.
Since 2015, more than 73,500 homes have been created from former office buildings following changes to planning rules
He explained that these apartment buildings are more prone to the so-called “urban heat island” effect, where temperatures are higher than in remote areas.
Planning data showed that the number of applications for office conversions in the number of housing units in England rose from 1,765 in 2020 to 2,121 last yeara 20 percent jump as developers snap up blocks left vacant by the pandemic.
And since 2015, more than 73,500 houses were created from former offices blocks after changes to planning regulations.
And yet an independent report commissioned by the government argued that so-called permitted development regulations were creating “inferior quality” homes.
At the same time, art The Committee on Climate Change warns of overheating in homes is in the top eight climate change risks for the people of Britain.
And a Research by Loughborough University found 4.6 million homes in England suffer from overheating, while a government survey found it affects nearly one in 10 homes.
Insurers have raised concerns about office retrofits, particularly filling systems not originally designed to service hundreds of domestic kitchens and bathrooms.
North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf said: “The problem with converted offices and many other buildings in this country is that in the past we were fixated on making sure they were warm enough, but now we have to think the other way around.
“For this reason, air conditioning, climate cooling, adequate ventilation and super-limit insulation are optional rather than mandatory.
In the past we’ve been fixated on keeping converted offices warm enough, but now we need to think the other way around
“On the other hand, some of our more savvy developers and builders have allowed their properties to overheat over the years.
“They recognized that living and working in a comfortable environment really improves marketability, profitability and value.”
In addition to the risks associated with climate change, Zurich said there have been a large number of claims of water leaking from offices into residential premises.
One of the most common causes of this is the failure of plumbing systems that were not originally designed to serve the hundreds of home kitchens and bathrooms.
Paul Reddington, Zurich’s major property loss manager, said: “The number of office to residential conversions continues to rise as new workplace flexibility leaves office blocks empty.
“While many conversions will be well designed and include cooling features, this is not always the case. A poor quality conversion is at serious risk of overheating and suffering from other problems such as water leakage.
“Developers should ensure that retrofitted buildings are designed with increased ventilation and shading to maintain low temperatures. Building more affordable housing is a priority, but we must avoid creating housing estates that are unfit for a rapidly warming world.’