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Jorge San Miguel Bellod, School of Architecture of the University of Navarra

Energy poverty also kills

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:11:00 +0000 Published in News Journal

Autumn is passing and with the arrival of low temperatures, we look for the warm shelter of our homes, a hot shower and a good dinner listening to the bickering of each other or the latest news of an increasingly incomprehensible world. Between 18.7 and 19.6ºC is the temperature average at which we are lucky enough to live in most homes during the winter in Pamplona. This is an estimate that we have been able to make through the programs of study that we have been carrying out for several years at School of Architecture in hundreds of homes in our city.

However, for tens of thousands of people in Navarre -about 8%-, and also in Spain, maintaining that warm shelter, taking a shower or having a hot meal daily is a luxury that, however you calculate it, it is not possible to squeeze out of the 300, 500 or the 707, 6 euros per month (SMI 2017) on which hundreds of families in Navarre subsist.

Living at 9ºC of average daily, turning on the heating, having to wrap up excessively warm or leave the home in search of a heated place, resorting to economic and precarious systems such as butane stoves, sealing windows with plastic, not ventilating for fear of wasting or ventilating excessively, living exposed to high levels of humidity and fungus in the walls, among other impacts detected, not only have a very negative influence on family life but above all on people's health. According to the study Minimum home temperature thresholds for health in Winter/Umbrales mínimos de temperatura para salud en invierno (Public Health England, 2014), carried out in England, prolonged living below 18ºC has an impact on health, especially in the most vulnerable people, the elderly, the sick, children or people with disabilities.

Among many of the homes studied in Pamplona we have found this reality in the face of poverty and the inability to maintain the home in minimum conditions for health, which is one of the most serious impacts of energy poverty. We have found a complex reality where many causes and problems associated with poverty and especially with social exclusion are mixed, but also with structural, political, social and building failures that hinder the implementation of an effective solution.

There are many families who cannot afford to change a window, buy an efficient boiler or pay for its maintenance, have an energy contract or understand it, or even have access to affordable rent. And let's not talk about rehabilitating their property or buying one. The first thing these families do without is always heating and energy. It is necessary to think of new strategies to make renovation and rehabilitation with high standards a short term solution deadline and effective in reducing the impact on health of living in inadequate conditions. Rehabilitation not only means economic savings for families, and a reduction of the impact on the environment, but also and above all it favors an important saving in the public health system. The British have been demonstrating this for many years, and Europe is following the same path. On the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which is celebrated today, October 17, it is worth taking a broad look at poverty in the world, but especially at poverty close to home. As this year's slogan proposed by the zero poverty platform Move against obscene inequality states, it is time to call the attention of each one of us, as neighbors door to door with this reality, so that we are not indifferent to the reality of those who suffer next to us.

Poverty and social exclusion is yet another frontier that separates us. Energy poverty in particular, yet another border that kills, that will not fill the streets of our cities with indignation and our cell phones with proclamations of unity against this problem and that will pass, despite the struggle and effort of many people, and much talk unfortunately, as every year, with another 7,000 deaths due to this scourge in Spain.