In June and July 2021, British Columbia was trapped in a heat dome. The high-pressure weather event that trapped heat was responsible for 619 deaths.
In its review of the event, the Canadian government found that 98% of the deaths occurred indoors. Of these, only 7% had AC units present in their homes, but only seven of those who died (15%) had them turned on at the time of their death. What’s more, 24% of those who died had fans in their rooms and 70% of them had them turned on at the time of their deaths.
What this data shows is that, while AC units and mechanical ventilation has a role to play in keeping people cool during periods of extreme heat, AC is neither a quick or easy fix.
Canadian authorities published an extreme heat preparedness guide in the aftermath of the heat dome. Recommendations include the installation of heat pumps for cooling provision in all social housing and low-income apartments. Furthermore, it called for building codes that require higher standards of heatwave readiness.
Lessons need to be learned from events such as the British Columbia heat dome – policies need to be developed and actions taken that build resilience to extreme heat as well as other climate risks.
The race to engineer better buildings for a warming world
Using industrial waste heat for district heating networks
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