B1 Intermediate AU 301 Folder Collection
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When the UK struggles through a heatwave, temperatures over there can get as high as
the mid-30s.
For someone like me, who deals with this weather for winter, that doesn't sound like much.
So do the Brits just need to “toughen up”?
I mean, we've got roads melting here in our summers.
We're all used to different climates, yes, but there's more to it than that.
For starters, a heatwave is relative - basically, it's different depending on where you are.
The World Meteorological Organisation loosely defines it as “more than 5 consecutive days
of temperatures exceeding the average max by 5 degrees celsius”.
So in the UK, it averages about 20C over the summer months, whereas in Australia it averages
about 30C.
This means it doesn't take as high a temperature to trigger a heatwave in the UK.
If we look at other cities, in Toronto their summers are about 25C.
A heatwave there is three consecutive days over 32C.
And in India, with temperatures around 35C, they wouldn't call a heatwave unless the
air temperature reached at least 40C in plains regions.
So in Australia, and other countries with a high summer temperatures, the buildings
are built to keep as cool as possible.
The concept is nothing new.
It's called vernacular architecture, where buildings are designed based on local needs,
materials and traditions.
Take a look at this house.
This is a Queenslander, found in, well, Queensland.
They're built out of timber and on stumps — the space underneath the house helps cool
the building through ventilation.
There's always a wide veranda for shading and protection from heavy rains, and a corrugated
iron roof which is lightweight and durable.
And there's plenty more examples of this style of building for your environment from
around the world.
This is a house from the Asir province of Saudi Arabia, where the temperature is moderate
but it rains often.
The protruding slates cascade rain away from the clay walls.
In the Philippines, bahay kubo huts are built with bamboo, with sufficient ventilation for
the hot summer, and raised above the ground to protect against torrential flooding.
The igloos of the inuits, rondavels in Africa, and gers in Mongolia — you get the idea.
And along with this, there's plenty of other architectural choices made to respond to the environment.
Our public spaces include plenty of shaded areas and sufficient ventilation.
Not to mention, the majority of the population, about 85%, lives within 50km of the coastline,
where all the major cities have developed.
Meaning even in summer, we'd get a nice seabreeze to help cool down the hot air temperature.
But over on the other side of the world, it's not that easy.
Did you notice something he didn't mention?
Air-conditioning is not really a thing in the UK.
Offices and shopping centres are more likely to have them, but it's not a given
the way it'd be in Australia and other countries in hotter climates.
It's just not needed.
That's because — like how Australian houses are built to keep cool — in the UK and other
colder climates, everything is designed to keep the heat in.
There aren't many overhanging eaves or awnings, or shaded outdoor areas, and most windows
are double-glazed so that the temperature inside buildings stays as warm as possible
during cold winters.
Public transport is another big one — the Tube is notorious for its lack of ventilation,
which means the heat generated from the trains can't escape the underground system very easily.
This is fine for an English summer most of the time, but as soon as the mercury starts
rising, it becomes a bit unbearable.
Rest assured, air con is coming to the Central Line … but in 2030.
So only a few years to go then.
This is all well and good for part of the year, but on the flipside, when it gets cold
in Australia, you really feel it.
Yes, even if you're from a place where sub-zero temperatures is normal.
Because the houses are designed to perform well in summer, buildings don't really retain
much heat.
Even though the winter months aren't as cold, with averages of about 5 degrees,
most houses aren't properly insulated.
The large eaves that give you welcome shade in the summer, stops that same sunshine from
entering in the winter.
And of course, the British homes which heat up during summer stay nice and warm during
the cold winter months.
So the actual infrastructure of a city can help the temperature feel hotter or cooler
than it is, but depending on how long we've lived in a certain city, our physiology can
also affect the way we react to certain temperatures.
It's called acclimatisation, and it's our body's long-term response to extreme temperatures.
So it's not just about sweating when it's hot — it's how our bodies decide when
we sweat, how much we sweat, our tendency to sweat, and even the amount of salt in our sweat.
It only takes about 2 weeks for a healthy body to acclimatise, depending on different factors.
And it's faster to adapt to heat than to cold.
If you're used to a certain range of temperatures, anything outside of that range would feel
uncomfortable to you.
So both acclimatisation and our city's infrastructure affects the way we feel temperature.
So while we might think we're good at dealing with certain extremes, we might be proven
So next time you see this or this, maybe don't be too quick to judge.
I've put some links below to some sites which will help you build or improve your
home to be more environmentally sustainable and energy efficient.
And on the topic of interesting architecture,
I wanted to leave you all with this weird story I found while researching -
this is a car which was melted due to the concave windows of this building in London.
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Why 25 degrees really is hot in the UK | Did You Know?

301 Folder Collection
00348 published on July 23, 2019
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