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Our homes might not be ready for more frequent heat waves. Here's why

Climate experts predict rising summer temperatures increasing, with a sharp spike around the middle of the century.
Yunyi Dai
Special to the Midwest Newsroom
Climate experts predict rising summer temperatures increasing, with a sharp spike around the middle of the century.

Climate data suggests heat waves might be getting more frequent. Inconsistent building codes and the cost of implementing climate resilient practices mean that many homes aren't prepared to keep us cool in hazardous heat.

This year's summer was the hottest on record, and there may be hotter ones to come. But our homes might not be prepared to keep us cool.

"There are two big factors. One is cost, and one is codes," said Holly Edgell, managing editor at the Midwest Newsroom, who recently published an in-depth report on the issue.

A housing stock that can adapt to more frequent heat waves is more expensive. It's also usually optional. Missouri doesn't have a uniform building code for new homes, meaning that municipalities can create their own standards — and decide how often they're updated. And experiments into more resilient forms of home building, like the CRETE House made at Washington University in St. Louis in 2017, are far more expensive than a traditional home.

Still, Edgell said there is "cautious optimism" about creating a resilient housing stock.

"I think Americans are mostly optimistic," she said. "And we think probably that these things will work out somehow. But I do think there's a sense of urgency."

  • Holly Edgell, managing editor, Midwest Newsroom
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