ClimaCare: Governing the climate adaptation of care settings

Governing the Climate Adaptation of Care Settings (ClimaCare) aims to quantify climate-related heat risks in care settings nationwide. Ultimately, the project aims to enhance understanding of human behaviour, organisational capacity and governance to enable the UK’s care provision to develop adaptation pathways to rising heat stress under climate change.

Context

In the coming decades the UK is expected to experience hotter and drier summers, and more frequent and intense heatwaves.  The UK also has a rapidly ageing population, with people aged 75 or over expected to account for 13% of the total population by 2035. Older populations can be more vulnerable to heat stress due to underlying chronic health complications.

As older people spend much of their time indoors, their exposure to heat is largely governed by the indoor environment. In case settings, poor building design, ineffective heat management, and diverging needs and preferences between staff and residents may contribute to increased indoor heat exposure with detrimental consequences for the health of the most vulnerable residents.

While passive cooling measures may go some way to addressing the challenge, without the additional cost and carbon emissions of air conditioning, preliminary modelling suggests that passive cooling alone is insufficient to fully address future overheating risks. Changes to human behaviour and organisational practice are also required to achieve successful adaptation pathways for social care in the UK.

Project objectives

Building on the pilot project, this novel, interdisciplinary project will collect, for the first time in the UK, longitudinal temperature and humidity data in a panel of 50 care settings in order to quantify the recurring risk of summer overheating.

It will then identify and assess social, institutional and cultural barriers and opportunities underpinning the governance of adaptation to a warmer climate in care and extra-care homes through surveys with residents, frontline care staff, managers and policy stakeholders. In addition, a sub-sample of this group will be used to collect residents’ physiological data and study their relation with heat exposure and health impacts using innovative measurement techniques.

Further, and  again for the first time in the UK, ClimaCare will create a building stock model of the UK’s care provision able to predict future overheating risks in care settings under a range of future climate change scenarios. This will help evaluate the effectiveness of near, medium and long term future overheating mitigation strategies and policies on thermal comfort and health outcomes.

Additionally, the project will continue to develop and expand the stakeholder community created during the pilot project. Through ongoing dialogue with a diverse network of stakeholders, it will explore organisational capacity and structures, and how these influence action and policy, in order to generate best practice guidance for practitioners, businesses and policymakers.