A HOUSING association is having to meet its tenants' air conditioning costs as their 'energy efficient' tower block has become too hot during the heatwave.

Residents say temperatures inside their flats have soared to 30 degrees celsius this week as Wales has baked under high temperatures for more than five days with rain today only slightly tempering the heat.

Help with costs has only been made available to disabled and elderly tenants, or those with young children, who have been provided with portable air-conditioning units and fans, to help them as they swelter in their own homes.

The design of Hamadryad Court, in Cardiff's Butetown, is being blamed for the "unbearable" indoor temperatures as large south-facing windows, intended to reduce energy bills in the winter months, suck in the heat from the hot sun.

Other problems include an inability for residents to open and close windows themselves.

Rhys Jones, 36, who left Hamadryad Court recently, said: “It has been an ongoing problem, the heat.

“The windows open automatically in the corridors, so they can only react to excessive heat. You can’t control any aspect of it yourself.”

Rhys has type one diabetes and said it is “hard to think straight in the heat”.

“I have always found that my blood sugars were unstable living in these conditions due to stress as well,” he said.

“I was getting hypos as well and excessive sweating. I just feel as though there should be air conditioning standards.”

An amber weather warning was in place for extreme heat in Cardiff over the weekend. The temperature reached 33°C on Friday, August 12.

On that day, a temperature reading at Rhys’ old apartment at Hamadryad Court reached just over 29°C.

Rhys said the opposite side of the high rise to his apartment gets even hotter as that is where the sun faces later on in the day.

“It’s horrible,” said one resident who did not wish to be named.

“It’s unbearable. Whatever the temperature is outside, you can probably chuck another five to 10 degrees on it and that’s not an exaggeration.

“You are sweating in your own home. You are in your living room with nothing but boxers and you are sweating.

“It’s unbearable, sometimes to the extent that you can’t even stay in your own home. I will try and spend as much time as I can outside the building purely because of the heat.”

Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA) has taken measures to try to tackle the high temperatures in the block, like adding a dark film to window panes in apartments.

Another resident of Hamadryad Court, Sara Alkhatham, said: “It is too hot in the building. Especially if we start cooking as well. It just adds more heat to what we already have in the flat.”

Sara, 39, who works part time as a pharmacist’s assistant, said she sometimes has to order food to counter the issue and said it is difficult to afford a delivery every day.

She added: “Or we try to make salads. I can’t sleep at night as well.”

The windows in Sara’s apartment will only open slightly due to a health and safety mechanism, making it harder to cool their living space.

She said the housing association has also provided her family with a portable air conditioning unit, but added that the lack of sleep can get to her.

“We don’t sleep all night. I will be tired during the day,” she added.

Quassim Mohamad, who has recently graduated after completing a physics degree, said the situation was worse last year.

“It has been quite hot these past few days. Although, thinking back to last year around the same time it was quite intolerable,” said Quassim, 23.

“This year they have actually had some material put on to some of the windows that has helped to reduce the temperatures quite a bit.

“It is still a little uncomfortable. I am still sweating, but considering the temperature, it is actually a lot more bearable this year.

“It is still hot and still much hotter than I would like it to be and than what it would be if I was in a house.

“Given that half of the house is made of glass, so you are getting so much sunlight coming in. It is uncomfortable, but bearable.”

READ MORE: Buildings in Wales must adapt for climate change

Cardiff Council ward member for Butetown, Cllr Helen Gunter, said she is aware of the issues relating to temperature at Hamadryad Court.

She said: “After being approached by the residents of Hamadryad Court, I have been in discussion with their landlord, CCHA, to try to have the problems with heat rectified as quickly as possible.

“I am very concerned about the situation and, as a local councillor, I am doing all that I can to help by liaising with and advocating for residents with the chief executive and directors of CCHA.

“CCHA has taken some steps, for example providing fans and financial support to cover some electricity costs. Those measures have made some difference, but the problem remains, which is why it is important for discussions to continue."

A spokesperson for the housing association said: “Hamadryad was originally designed to a high energy efficiency code which was intended to reduce energy costs for tenants.

“The building has large south-facing windows and this coupled with high temperatures have resulted in the internal temperature of the apartments being very uncomfortable for residents.

“We are not alone in how ‘relatively modern buildings’ perform in periods of intense heat with buildings up and down the country, overheating.  

“At CCHA we take our tenants safety very seriously. As soon as we are aware of potential high temperatures our team make very frequent visit to Hamadryad to speak to tenants about what support we can offer, how to keep temperatures down in their homes, and precautions to take in extreme hot weather to keep themselves safe.

“We undertake door knocking exercises and recently held a consultation event with residents and the local councillor, to discuss the situation and any other issues or problems they may have been experiencing.    

“The temperatures this year have been unprecedented however over the past two years we have carried out several actions to help manage the heat at Hamadryad. 

“We have installed anti-solar gain film to all south-facing windows. The film works by reflecting heat caused by the sun.

“Some residents have reported a reduction in the intensity of the heat in their flats as a result of this but we recognise that this alone is not a solution. The remaining north-facing homes are due to be completed next year.  

“We have installed lagging on the pipework throughout the common area to reduce the radiated heat from the heating system.  

“We have also improved the ventilation in the common areas by wiring the windows to an automatic opening vent (AOV) system.

“This automatically opens the windows in the common areas when the building gets to a certain temperature. This has reduced the temperatures in the common areas and provides more air circulation.  

“We have trialled turning off the central boiler for one week in July during a period of extreme hot weather to try and minimise the heat being generated.

“Following the trial we consulted with tenants and found that they had mixed feedback on how effective this was.  

“We are giving extra support to families with young children, anyone who is elderly or disabled, by providing air-conditioning units and fans.

“We recognise the current high cost of energy and are covering those costs over the six-week summer period.

“Tenants have been claiming costs from us although we recognise we haven’t always paid these costs as quickly as promised.

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“Everyone who has had an air-conditioning unit has been paid the full six weeks costs as of the end of July 2022. “ 

You can find guidance on what to do during hot weather on South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s website by clicking here.

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