Ahead of Adaptation Day at COP27, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has called on government to strengthen policies that will support a resilient built environment.
While the built environment sector has rallied around mitigation measures such as decarbonisation, “Climate change, along with its hazards, is already here – and we are simply ill-prepared for the impacts it will bring,” says Philip Box, Policy Advisor at UKGBC.
Strengthening climate resilience in the built environment should thus be an urgent priority, stressed the UKGBC in a press statement yesterday.
Philip Box continued: “The heatwaves and droughts this summer caused widespread harm across the UK, from severe disruptions to transport services, and increased pressure on the NHS, to wildfires causing irreversible damage to homes and communities.
“The built environment plays a critical role in addressing this; in building our resilience to climate-related risks in the places we live, work and play. It’s essential that we’re able to understand and make our climate risks visible so that effective adaptation plans and actions can be implemented.”
Box says that more investment needs to be made in nature-based solutions such as street trees and green roofs to make our cities and infrastructure more resilient, biodiverse, and healthier places.
“Despite small policy improvements towards climate adaptation, the UK Government is yet to take the necessary steps in regulation and planning legislation to make meaningful progress and fully mitigate the risks we face.
“There are several upcoming opportunities for the government to address this issue, including as it prepares plans for a Future Homes and Building Standard, reforms the English planning system and through putting together a comprehensive plan to upgrade the UK’s existing building stock.
“More positively, climate adaptation is more firmly on the COP agenda than ever before. Through actions such as the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda being launched, we hope this will spur the UK Government into much needed action to build in climate resilience and reduce the UK’s vulnerability to risk.”
According to an article recently published in the Harvard Business Review, climate adaptation initiatives receive only 7% of climate-related investment globally.
Our built environment, a major driver of climate change, must also be a key front in adaptation, the authors say.
Because of their fixed location, real estate assets — valued at $200 trillion worldwide — are uniquely vulnerable to natural disasters and resource shortages.
Technologies and approaches such as 3D printed and modular housing, predictive forecasting solutions such as digital twins, and preventative planning will be key.
This ‘climate reality’ also needs to be embedded into the way buildings are designed and constructed right now.
“A typical building constructed today will still be in use in 2070 and beyond, but the climate it encounters will have changed significantly,” said David Brownstein, senior engineer at Cundall, in a blog post.
“At best, this means they may not function as intended and at worst, they could be downright dangerous.
“The construction industry must wake up to the fact that our climate is already changing and, at the very least, acknowledge the risks that this poses to the buildings we design, deliver and occupy.”
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