Living well - apartments, comfort and resilience in climate change

Buildings Architecture Housing and health Housing Climate change mitigation Thermal environment Melbourne

This report has been produced by the University of Melbourne for the Australian Communities Foundation Green Cities Innovation Fund to document an international review on high-rise apartment building thermal performance and comfort in heat wave conditions. This identified four international standards that represent best practice in protecting the health of apartment residents in heatwave conditions. Using computer energy modelling, six apartment designs typical to Melbourne were performance tested against the international standards, the main research question being: ‘how will they perform in free running mode – that is if there is no ability to turn on mechanical cooling systems?’

The computer model was developed for the six buildings using as constructed construction elements, and standard occupancy parameters. A weather data set based on a severe heat wave as experience in Melbourne in 2009 was used. The result of the six buildings that were tested against the international standards showed that none of the apartments would comply with the standards under these heat wave conditions.

To investigate what could be done about this the worst performing apartment design was retrofitted in the model to determine the type of upgrades that would be required for this apartment to comply. This showed that even the worst performing building could be retrofitted using standard retrofit strategies to comply with two of the four international standards and protect their residents.

Key recommendations of this report are that the retrofits tested here be considered for all existing apartments, that new apartment regulations consider best practice international standards for summer comfort and finally that until retrofits are able to be implemented the residents of apartments have an action plan if heat wave conditions occur.

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